Six months after cyclone Idai 'farmers are fainting in fields because of hunger'

By agency reporter
September 16, 2019

Six months on from the devastation wreaked by Cyclone Idai in which more than 1,000 people were killed in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, hunger is escalating as the United Nation’s humanitarian response in Mozambique is less than half funded, warns Oxfam.  Only 45 per cent of Mozambique’s humanitarian appeal has been funded, while the number of people in need of food aid has risen by 25 per cent since April 2019 – up from 1.6 million to two million, as the impact of Cyclones Idai and Kenneth has been compounded by drought in the South and unrest in the North.

Farmers are fainting in the fields along the southern shore of the Buzi river because they have nothing to eat but tomatoes, one of the few fast-growing crops people could plant after the extensive flooding damaged their lands, wiped away their harvests and destroyed their seed stocks. 

In dozens of resettled communities, relocated to mitigate the risk of future floods, people are not getting enough food and with the lean season approaching, there will not be a harvest until next year. 

Rotafina Donco, Oxfam Country Director in Mozambique, said: “Things are taking an ominous turn, regardless of our efforts to provide resettled communities with essential aid: women are skipping meals so that the little food there is can be given to children. Families are foraging for wild plants as there’s not enough or very little to eat. Hunger risks becoming the silent killer of those who survived Idai.” 

Ten per cent of Mozambique’s population is now in need of food assistance and levels of food insecurity are rising to crisis threshold in hard to reach areas in Sofala, Zambezia, Manica and Tete provinces, affected by Idai, as well as Cabo Delgado where Tropical Cyclone Kenneth struck. 

“Today, the emergency phase ought to be over but those who survived Idai are on the brink of a food insecurity crisis”, says Donco. “Despite sustained aid efforts, the demand is outstripping supply: entire communities in Buzi district are facing shortages of food, clean water, shelter and access to livelihoods.”

Food insecurity is hitting women hardest, as even before the cyclone, poverty rates in the areas affected by Idai were higher than the national average, and the lack of recovery risks pushing them even deeper into deprivation. Aid donors and the government must prioritise the needs of women and girls.

José Mucote, Director of Oxfam's partner organisation AJOAGO, said: “We were still grappling with a biting drought in the South, when Cyclone Idai and the floods struck central Mozambique. Each disaster is making people poorer by the day and more vulnerable to whatever may come next. Every day we’re supporting people who were already living in extreme poverty and had coped with a more and more crises over the past two decades.” 

The Sofala region in central Mozambique was heavily hit by the Cyclone and flooding which, partially or totally,  destroyed lands and crops of over 433,056 families.  In dozens of displaced peoples’ sites where entire communities were relocated to mitigate the risk of future floods, thousands of people are relying on aid to survive. The lean season is now approaching, and the next harvest will only be ready by March/April 2020: until then, almost two million people will remain at risk of food insecurity.

As the intensity and frequency of natural hazards has increased because of the climate crisis, the people of Mozambique are left wondering whether the next rainy season will bring more flooding or another drought and how they can ensure the safety of their families and protect their livelihoods.

* Oxfam International


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