FAIRFIELD, Conn. (Sept. 11, 2019)—Thousands of families are suffering severe food shortages six months after Cyclone Idai tore through central Mozambique, says Save the Children.
Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique on March 14, killing 603 people and injuring 1,641. The country was struck by another devastating cyclone, Kenneth, on April 25 and was then hit by drought.
The combined crises have destroyed crops and seeds and devastated people’s means of living, repeatedly pushing children and their families to the edge of hunger. An estimated 1,100 square miles of land were flooded in Cyclone Idai alone, with over 1.7 million acres of crop fields under water, and widespread damage to key infrastructure. Mud and sand still covers large swathes of land, making it impossible to farm, and there is a severe lack of seeds for the next, critical harvest. At least 433,056 households have had their land and crops partially or totally destroyed.
As a result, nearly 2 million people in Mozambique are expected to be severely food insecure in the coming months, more than twice the number in the same time last year. The lack of food has serious health implications, with an estimated 67,500 children are already suffering from acute malnutrition and in need of treatment.
Save the Children is warning that unless families in the hard-hit areas receive support, more cyclone-affected children will struggle to survive. Children are at particular risk of exploitation, with many boys and girls still out of school, girls at risk of violence during their long walks to collect water, and boys at risk of being forced into work.
Save the Children is calling on international donors to commit an additional $160 million to ensure families receive adequate food and children are protected.
Maria, 40, and her daughter-in-law Regina, 35, lost their homes and crops in Cyclone Idai, and are now jointly caring for orphaned twin babies Luisa and Franque. In July, Franque was diagnosed with moderate acute malnutrition, and both babies have suffered diarrhea, malaria, and the flu in the past six months.
“Now we are dying from hunger, all of us in the tents are dying of hunger… We don’t have anything to eat… In some people’s farms there are bits of rotten corn, which we collect and peel and grind,” said Maria. “The government helped us a lot here and even till now they are helping but now we are dying from hunger.”
Albertina, 33, lives with her five children in a resettlement camp. During the cyclone and the floods that followed, Albertina and her family lost most of their belongings, including crops and food.
“The biggest problem that is worrying us is food, things to eat are very scarce… We cook our food without oil… Before the cyclone we were farmers, we had bananas, we sold our bananas for our survival,” said Albertina. “We cultivated sesame and we sold it as well as maize, even vegetables and onions, goats and chickens. But all of these things we don’t have anymore.”
“We’re seeing recovery funds dry up just as people need them the most,” said Save the Children’s country director in Mozambique, Chance Briggs. “Getting your life back together after you lose everything takes time. Six months on from Idai, we are seeing families unable to earn cash because their crops have been destroyed, and sand and mud have overflowed the land they used to work. Many children are still out of school, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation, child labor and early marriage.
“While the destructive effects of climate change will be discussed at the UN climate change summit later this month, Mozambique is already suffering the harsh reality of erratic weather patterns. It is critical that donors use this opportunity, six months on from one of the most devastating natural disasters to strike this region, to commit new funds to support the recovery. The response has only been 50 percent funded to date, with these funds largely committed in the immediate aftermath of the cyclone. More is needed, urgently, to get families back in a position where they can look toward the future with hope.”
Save the Children was among the first actors to respond to Cyclone Idai and reached over 400,000 people with humanitarian assistance to date. The organization’s Emergency Health Unit has delivered life-saving healthcare for impacted children and families in the four affected provinces of Manica, Sofala, Tete and Zambezia. Blankets, mosquito nets, buckets to store clean water, and solar lights are still being distributed to families. To ensure children don’t miss out on months of learning, the education team has been assessing damaged schools for repairs, constructing temporary learning spaces, and replacing school supplies to get classes underway. Save the Children has established child-friendly spaces in shelters to support the emotional wellbeing of children who have suffered the loss of, or separation from, a loved one.
Save the Children is a member of the COSACA consortium, which has jointly reached close to a million people with assistance to date. Through COSACA, seeds and tools distributions are scheduled to take place assisting, people with food production and a successful next harvest. Save the Children is working in close coordination with the government and the National Institute of Disaster Management to support children impacted by the disaster.
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