Mozambique braces for more extreme weather events and destruction as rainy season begins
By Charles Mangwiro
MAPUTO (Mozambique) Olfa Feliciano Mudema weeps as she recounts her five-year experience living in a flood-prone area.
“Life has been difficult since I fled my parents’ home after it was destroyed by strong winds and heavy rains five years ago. Living here 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 in Ricatla.
Olfa is one of the 8,000 flood victims who sought refuge at Ricatla in Marracuene district, some 30 kms north of the capital, Maputo, after floods drove thousands of people away from their homes in 2017.
“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 as she breast fed her one year old son.
Olfa and other 75 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 Incomati river overflows,” she said explaining that they still return because “we 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:
“Ï’m renting my 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 their family house and washed away household property and personal items like identification documents and clothes.
Maputo Municipal council is aware of Olfa and Odete’s fate and acknowledged that indeed there are more than 100 families living in areas that are still flooded in Maputo City as a result of the 2021 rainy season.
The municipality says that there is no space to resettle the more than 100 families in the capital and that it is still negotiating for plots. The families come from the districts of KaMubukwana, KaMavota KaLhamankulo and KaMaxaquene and Ricatla.
“What we have to do is remove these families and put them in safe places”, the councillor of Health at the Maputo Municipal council, Alice Abreu told this reporter in an interview.
“In Maputo, we do not have space to house families,” said the counsellor who explained that some families live in natural basins, where it is not possible to solve the problem. Others live in natural water courses and, when it rains, the water always passes there, she added.
Abreu also said that 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 season.
“This is a situation that may occur at different times and there are also forecasts of floods in the cities and towns of that region. To avoid the worst, the National Institute for Disaster Risk Management and Reduction, INGD, has already designed a contingency plan.
INGD’s Maputo provincial delegate Amir Abdula said: “We are already activating the provincial and district Technical Councils, including our committees here so that they are ready for this rainy season, which is practically already beginning”.
He added: forecast of the risk of damage and, consequently, the impassibility of access roads in the southern region of the country. There are about three hundred kilometers of dust roads in Maputo province that may have limited access in this rainy season
Mozambique was devastated by three tropical cyclones earlier this year, between January and March. Gombe struck the northern province of Nampula in March, six weeks before tropical storms Ana and Dumako, affecting a total of 736,000 people and leaving a trail of severe damage and devastation in its wake.
Floods are a common occurrence in the country, and the National Institute for Disaster Risk Management and Reduction, 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. Nelma de Araujo, Deputy Director of INGD’s Division of Prevention, warned that Mozambique’s coastal areas are becoming increasingly vulnerable to sea level rise and coastal erosion.
She said: “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.”
Climate change is expected to destroy houses and deplete fish stocks, both of which are critical to the livelihoods of coastal communities.
The World Bank says more than 60 percent of Mozambique’s population lives below the common international poverty line of $1 per day, and is unable to cope with the effects of natural disasters. Climate change has caused significant socioeconomic problems in the country due to the increased frequency of such disasters.
According to de Araujo, the inability to respond quickly to natural disasters has exacerbated the effects of climate change.
She said the INGD has 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 farm produce while other have been displaced.
According to the INGD official, 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.
INGC annually 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. For the 2022-2023 season, the deficit of $114.2 million is expected to be covered by national and international cooperation partners.
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 is constantly raising awareness about potential natural disasters that may affect the country in the future.
It has been under a hard rock and the surface. Chances of sustainability are close to none. Nelma de Araujo concurred that about 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.
Mozambique and other southern African countries have been repeatedly struck by severe storms and cyclones in recent years that have destroyed infrastructure and displaced large numbers of people.(x)