Last week, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced that an initial pledge of $1.2 billion (USD) has so far been made to help “restore livelihoods and rebuild infrastructure” in Mozambique after two cyclones have hit the region these past months.
According to the UNDP, a pledging conference held in the city of Beira closed after two days, with international partners committing various financial and technical resources to help the country stabilize and recover. Noura Hamladji, the UNDP Africa Bureau Regional Director, said that “the important point coming out of this conference is that this recovery needs to be resilient. Mozambique is prone to climate change disasters, and those cyclones were not a one-time event, unfortunately—and the probability of these disasters reoccurring, many times in the future, is very high.” UNDP said that, in conjunction with the Mozambique Government, a Disaster Management Fund is being established, with regular external audits to ensure that it is transparent and accountable. In a message sent to the conference, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres reiterated his condolences and solidarity with the people of Mozambique saying, “I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all those who have contributed—and continue to do so—to alleviate the suffering of the people who have been deprived of their goods, houses, infrastructure and livelihoods.” However, he also issued a warning with regard to the level of funding required, stating that “The means at our disposal are not at all enough. We face enormous challenges: people’s basic needs remain unmet; the risk of disease outbreaks is evident, and the negative impact on food security due to the loss of crops will be very significant.”
While the high response level to the pledge is indeed promising, Mr Guterres is right to point out that there are still many challenges to be faced. As of 30 May, over two million people are believed to be in need of humanitarian services, over half of whom are children. The current trend in global warming necessitates a response that is long-term; the recovery process must, as Ms Hamladji stated, be to “build back better.” While the humanitarian relief fund is a step in the right direction, all aid is against the clock; aid workers and agencies have roughly a year until the next storm season to act, else risk a repetition of the current crisis.
The situation is currently the worst natural disaster to affect southern Africa in the last two decades, as it is the first time in recorded history that two cyclones have made landfall in Mozambique in the same season. Cyclone Idai hit Beira on the 14 March, only to be followed six weeks later by Cyclone Kenneth in the north of the country. Millions across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe have all been affected, requiring urgent aid in healthcare, education, water, sanitation, and nutrition. The UNDP has also pledged to support the Reconstruction Cabinet, a Government initiative to ensure transparency, and promote the strengthening of current infrastructure and buildings across the country.
The primary concern at the present is the livelihoods of the millions who have been left without adequate food or water supplies, and to provide a robust healthcare system to prevent further contagion, as nearly 7,000 cholera cases have already been confirmed. At the same time as the short-term recovery of the population, the Government and its international partners must focus on the next stage, ensuring such a disaster cannot happen again—as such natural disasters are only likely to increase.
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