Mozambique: Donor pledges for cyclone recovery fall short

Distribution of shelter kits to cyclone impacted communities in Mozambique. Photo by: Sara Jerving

MUTUA VILLAGE, Mozambique — When Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique in March, the river in Luisa Mateus’ village overflowed. Mateus grabbed her five children and climbed up a tree as the waters rose. It took six days before they were rescued. Her home and all of her crops were destroyed.

The government permanently relocated her family to higher ground. She now lives in a tent and is dependent on food aid from donors for the foreseeable future. She has no money to buy new seeds for planting and doesn’t have land to farm.

Q&A: NGO director stresses need to rebuild a more resilient Mozambique

Immediate relief is vital for Mozambique, which was devastated by two cyclones in one season. But long-term thinking is equally important to prepare the country for future events, says Birgit Holm, director at ADPP Mozambique.

It is estimated that more than 600 people died and 1,600 were injured in Mozambique during the unprecedented disasters of Cyclones Idai and Kenneth — the first time in recorded history that two strong tropical cyclones have hit the country during the same season. An estimated 750,000 people still require immediate help, according to the government-led post-disaster needs assessment published in May.

In an effort to mobilize funds for the longer-term rebuilding of Mozambique, the government held a donor’s pledging conference in Beira over the weekend, aiming to raise $3.2 billion for “building back better and disaster risk reduction to ensure future resilience.”

“We’ll have to wait and see whether donors actually follow through on their pledges.”

— Mark Yarnell, senior advocate and U.N. liaison, Refugees International

The funding goal was calculated through the post-disaster needs assessment, with reconstruction efforts expected to focus on restoring productivity, social services, and infrastructure in seven provinces, according to the United Nations. 

In the end, donors pledged $1.2 billion — a little over a third of the goal — with concerns that not all of these commitments will materialize.

“We’ll have to wait and see whether donors actually follow through on their pledges,” said Mark Yarnell, senior advocate and U.N. liaison for Refugees International. “It will take some time to uncover how much of this is new money, rather than existing funds in the pipeline that were repackaged for the pledging conference,” he added.

With limited resources, humanitarians won’t be able to access the most vulnerable populations, said Jean-Dominique Bodard, senior emergency response manager at CARE.

“If we don’t get enough funds, the poorest will suffer,” he said. “Maybe the money will go to rehabilitation of big infrastructure projects, but we shouldn’t forget about areas like rehabilitation support to the livelihoods of the poorest.”

There are also concerns that issues such as gender, for example, were overlooked in the national needs assessment. Of the funds requested, only 0.17% was set aside for standalone programming to benefit women and girls.

In focus groups with women impacted by the cyclones, protection concerns were raised including safety in resettlement sites, fear of exploitation, and violence that could arise from a change in gender roles with the loss or injury of men in the community, according to CARE.

The emergency appeal in the months after the cyclone was also underfunded, reaching only 37% of what was requested.

Cyclone impacted community relocated to higher land. Photo by: Sara Jerving

For Mateus and many others across Mozambique, these emergency needs are ongoing. The humanitarian sector is working with the government to provide food, water, sanitation, education, and health care, among other services.

Aid workers anticipate they will be delivering food until the next major harvest season arrives in March because of the widespread damage to crops.

Yarnell said the government’s pledging conference for long-term reconstruction was premature, given that parts of the country are still in emergency mode, and said there is little indication that impacted communities were able to give input on what they need most. He believes elections this year could have played a role in the timing of the conference.

“The political imperative to ‘show’ progress should not be at the expense of rebuilding in a way that is truly sustainable, human-centered, and lessens the impact of future climate risks,” he said.

Editor’s note: CARE facilitated Devex's travel and logistics for this reporting with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Devex maintains full editorial independence and control of the content.

About the author

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    Sara Jerving

    Sara Jerving is Devex's East Africa Correspondent based in Nairobi. She is a reporter and producer, whose work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Vice News, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Nation magazine, among others. Sara holds a master's degree in business and economic reporting from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism where she was a Lorana Sullivan fellow.