Refugees International Statement on Mozambique Donor Conference: Act Now or Lose Gains of Initial Response

MAPUTO, Mozambique—As Mozambique prepares to host an international pledging conference May 31-June 1 for reconstruction following cyclones Idai and Kenneth, Refugees International urges donor governments, UN agencies, and most importantly, the Mozambican government to prioritize support for cyclone-affected communities in three ways: boost funding for immediate lifesaving assistance, invest in work opportunities for displaced people, and prepare for a looming food crisis.

A field team from Refugees International (RI) is currently in Mozambique to assess the impact of the cyclones and the needs of those affected. The unprecedented back-to-back cyclones left a wide swath of devastation across six provinces, destroyed houses and buildings, and caused massive flooding. Donors, the UN, and the Mozambican government should help affected Mozambicans by:

  •  Increasing immediate lifesaving assistance. International and local aid groups, along with the government, responded quickly and impressively, saving lives and providing assistance, including mitigating a cholera outbreak.However, the cyclones affected more than 2 million people, and the United Nations’ humanitarian appeal is only 30 percent funded. On May 25, the RI team met with communities in hard-to-reach areas who were receiving their first emergency food distribution. When informed about the assistance, they traveled by foot and crossed two rivers to reach the main road and receive food. Funding is needed not only for food, but also to continue reaching people who live far from the main roads. 

  • Investing in work opportunities for displaced communities. Some several hundred thousand people were displaced by the cyclones. The government hastily relocated many of them but in some cases failed to set up adequate services and shelter beforehand. Some of those relocated far from home have no way to earn a living. “I used to work in Beira selling used clothing in the market,” said a man in one of the resettlement sites outside of Beira. “There is no market here in the resettlement site. There are no opportunities. What am I supposed to do with myself?” Significant and targeted investment in livelihood support—including through direct cash assistance—for people who have been resettled in new areas and for those who have returned home is urgently needed for people to start working again.

  • Preparing for a looming food crisis. Idai destroyed more than 715,000 hectares of crops followed by Kenneth, which destroyed tens of thousands of crops in the northern Cabo Delgado province. “My husband and I both used to farm to feed our children,” said a woman from Manica displaced by Idai. “We lost all of our crops and we were given seeds, but the timing is not right. We tried to replant a little bit so we will see.” If the UN and local governments heed early warnings and mobilize now to invest in food security and stock up supplies, they can stave off the threat of hunger and malnutrition.

Refugees International notes that the Mozambican government and humanitarian agencies mobilized a significant response in the immediate aftermath of the cyclones despite enormous devastation and dire circumstances. However, if participants at this week’s pledging conference do not address the issues described above, the positive gains of the initial response could be lost.