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Run-up to COP27: Mozambique braces for more extreme weather events as rainy season begins

Extreme weather events like heavy rainfall, flooding and cyclones are hitting Mozambique more frequently than in the past. These disasters have destroyed infrastructure and displaced many people in recent years. The country is bracing for more extreme weather events this rainy season.

Olfa Feliciano Mudema wept as she recounted her experience of living in a flood-prone area for the last five years.

Olfa is one of the 8,000 flood victims who sought refuge at Ricatla in the Marracuene district — after floods drove thousands of people away from their homes in 2017. Ricatla is located 30 kilometres north of the capital, Maputo.

“Life has been difficult since I fled my parents’ home after it was destroyed by strong winds and heavy rains five years ago,” said Mudema.

Living in a flood-prone area, without a proper home, has always been a nightmare — especially when the rainy season approaches,” the unemployed 28-year-old single mother told this reporter.

“Last year, we fled this place again after a heavy downpour submerged and destroyed some homes. We, however, returned when the water subsided because we have nowhere to go,” she said.

Olfa and 75 other families share space in the lower part of Ricatla, where water from the Incomati river empties into the Indian Ocean.

 “Every rainy season, we live with our bags packed, ready to run away when the Incomatiriver overflows,” she said, explaining that they still return since they don’t have safer places to build homes.

Odete Carlos, who earns her living through selling bread rolls, also shared the same sentiments with her neighbour Olfa.

“I’m renting a house here for 800 meticias ($12) a month. And I cannot raise enough money to buy my own plot in safer areas,” said the 35-year-old Odete, whose husband abandoned her.

For her, life became a struggle when floods destroyed her house and washed away properties and personal belongings like — identification documents and clothes.

Maputo Municipality Council is aware of Olfa and Odete’s fate. They acknowledged that more than 100 families live in areas flooded by the 2021 rainy season.

The municipal authorities said there is no space to resettle the more than 100 families in the capital and that it is still negotiating for plots. These families are from the districts — KaMubukwana, KaMavotaKaLhamankulo, KaMaxaquene and Ricatla.

“We need to relocate these families to safer places,” the councillor of health at the Maputo Municipality Council, Alice Abreu, told this reporter.

In Maputo, we do not have space to house families, said the counsellor.

Some families live in natural basins, where it is impossible to solve the problem. Others live in natural drainage courses. When it rains, the water always passes there, she added.

In addition to the current problem, about 68,000 people in Maputo province could be affected by the combined effects of drought, rain and strong winds during the 2022-2023 rainy seasons, Abreu added.

This situation may occur at different times. And there are flood forecasts in that region’s cities and towns. The National Institute for Disaster Risk Management and Reduction (INGD) has designed a contingency plan to avoid the worst.

“We are already activating the provincial and district technical councils, including our committees here so that they are ready for this rainy season,” said INGD’s Maputo provincial delegate Amir Abdula.

Some 300 kilometres of unpaved roads in Maputo province may have limited access in this rainy season.

Mozambique was devastated by three tropical cyclones earlier this year, between January and March.

Cyclone Gombe struck the northern province of Nampula in March — six weeks before tropical storms Ana and Dumako. The cyclone affected 736,000 people and left a trail of severe damage and devastation.

Floods are common in the country. INGD is at the forefront of disaster response — assisting the most vulnerable and affected by the effects of these extreme events.

Riverbanks in Mozambique typically burst after heavy rains in the region, resulting in flooding throughout the country.

Mozambique’s coastal areas are becoming increasingly vulnerable to sea level rise and coastal erosion, warned Nelma de Araujo, deputy director of INGD’s division for prevention.

“The challenge at the moment is to increase and improve our activities because INGD has been working on mitigation and prevention as well as risk reduction,” she said.

Climate change might destroy houses and deplete fish stocks — critical to coastal communities’ livelihoods.

More than 60 per cent of Mozambique’s population lives below the common international poverty line of $1 per day, according to the World Bank. They are unable to overcome the impacts of natural disasters.

Climate change has caused significant socioeconomic problems in the country due to the increased frequency of such disasters.

The inability to respond quickly to natural disasters has exacerbated the effects of climate change, said Araujo.

She said INGD had created local committees for disaster reduction and risk management, where the local population identifies their threats and opportunities.

She pointed out that climate change has primarily impacted the most vulnerable and poorest segments of the population — who have lost their homes and crops — while others have been displaced.

When disasters occur, financial resources for critical development projects are diverted to post-disaster rehabilitation reconstruction programmes — slowing the country’s efforts to eradicate poverty and foster development, according to the INGD official.

INGD operates under a thin monetary budget of 0.5 per cent of the annual state budget against the proposed $166 million for the 2022-2023 rainy season.

Hence, it cannot fully execute its mandate. The deficit of $114.2 million is expected to be covered by national and international cooperation.

Climate change-related disasters have primarily impacted agriculture, tourism and health care. Major critical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, clinics, hospitals and schools have been destroyed.

The INGD constantly raises awareness about potential natural disasters that may affect the country in the future.

Some 1.5 million people are likely to be affected by storms, floods, cyclones and other extreme events during the rainy season — which runs from October to March next year, said Araujo.

Severe storms and cyclones have repeatedly struck Mozambique and other southern African countries.

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