Aid agencies say more resources needed for women and girls following Mozambique cyclones

By agency reporter
May 31, 2019

Oxfam, Save the Children and Care are calling on donors to meet or exceed the proposed $5 million target to fund programmes that support vulnerable women and girls ahead of a donor conference in Beira, Mozambique on Friday 31 May 2019. The money is needed to help women and girls access education, health and other resources, and to protect them from risks such as gender based-violence.

A joint needs assessment overseen by the Mozambique government and the United Nations highlighted the acute vulnerabilities and needs faced by women in the aftermath of the cyclone. However it proposed that just 0.17 per cent of funds  – $5 million – should be invested in programmes which benefit women and girls.

The humanitarian crisis increase the risks faced by women and girls in Mozambique and could widen gender inequalities in a country which even prior to the disaster, ranked in the bottom 20 nations on the UNDP Gender Inequality Index. For example, women are often forced to walk longer distances in unsafe conditions to collect water which leaves them with even less time to earn an income and puts them at increased risk of gender based violence.  The agencies are calling for every aspect of the humanitarian response to prioritise women and girls’ distinct needs.

Despite two massive Cyclones hitting Mozambique in fast succession, affecting 1.8 million people and leaving 750,000 people in need of humanitarian assistance, the UN’s Mozambique cyclone appeal remains less than 40 percent funded.

Rotafina Donco, the Oxfam Mozambique Country Director, says, “Women and girls have unique needs and face specific risks during and after an emergency. The women of Mozambique contribute so much to their country, especially in this time of crisis. We must use this opportunity to make sure women are protected, that they are given the tools they need to help their families and communities recover, and that their critical role in rebuilding our country is recognised. We can’t just talk about supporting women and girls – we need to see it funded and in practice every day.”

Save the Children’s Country Director for Mozambique, Chance Briggs, says, “Children are vulnerable to all kinds of risks in the wake of a disaster. Girls especially, are at high risk for exploitation, trafficking, early marriage and child labour. One of the best protections against these risks is to ensure that they are able to return to immediately return to learning after a disaster. Education is a life-saving intervention, providing children a sense of normalcy, and in the longer term, builds their resilience to future shocks and stresses. Education is a right and needs to be included at all phases of this response. Right now, the education response has not been sufficiently funded. This is not good enough. Mozambique’s children deserve better.”

Marc Nosbach, CARE’s country director in Mozambique, said: “Affected communities have lost everything and are struggling to rebuild their lives from scratch. It is necessary not only to address their immediate needs, but also to invest in recovery programmes that take into account the vulnerability of some of the community members, especially women and girls. In focus groups with women who were impacted by both cyclones, we have found multiple protection concerns, such as their safety in new resettlement sites, fear of exploitation, increased social tensions, and violence that could stem from the change of gender roles due to the loss or injury of male members. All these issues need more support and funding flexibility for aid organisations to be able to plan their responses properly.”

As donors arrive in Beira, thousands of families are still reeling from the loss of loved ones, homes, incomes, and sense of security. There are still remote communities that have only just been reached by humanitarian agencies. Yet the initial devastation caused by disasters such as Cyclones Idai and Kenneth is only the beginning with communities facing months or years of difficult recovery ahead. Mozambique will also face more frequent and more intense natural disasters as a result of the climate crisis, and the humanitarian community cannot be complacent or allow vulnerable communities to fall further behind.

Oxfam, Save the Children, and Care are calling for donors to ensure their money and efforts are invested in a way that reduces inequality and prepares communities for any future disasters.

* Oxfam International https://www.oxfam.org/en

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