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A deadly reminder of climate change: Cyclone Eloíse hits Mozambique hard


A child stands in rising water in the neighbourhood of Praia Nova in Beira, Mozambique.
Photo: UNICEF Mozambique/Ricardo Franco

In January, tropical storm Eloíse killed at least 11 people in Mozambique. That number might seem low, but the true impact is much greater. The storm also displaced approximately 43,000 people and has affected more than 440,000. It also caused considerable damage to 76 health centres and 400 classrooms. That’s the announcement from Myrta Kaulard, the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Mozambique. 

Data from the National Institute for Disaster Risk Management and Reduction (INGD) estimate that there are more than 219,000 hectares of agricultural areas flooded, aggravating the risk of hunger. 

“Cyclone Eloíse is a reminder of how Mozambique is exposed to the effects of climate change,” says Kaulard. 

Repairing or rebuilding damaged infrastructure will be a priority in the country’s recovery, but the UN says the most urgent needs are tents, blankets, food, drinking water, hygiene items, sanitation, and personal protective equipment to defend against COVID-19.  

A mother with her children stand outside by their fields after Cycone Eloise.

Caption: Impoverished and vulnerable families are highly exposed to both seasonal shocks (such as the annual dry season) and recurring natural disasters.

Photo: UN Mozambique/Helvisney Cardoso

Kaulard commended Mozambicans "incredible demonstration of generosity" towards those who were displaced, as even the humblest families are accommodating people in need. She also praised the work of government institutions, which have communicated with people in affected areas and deployed emergency workers there.  

Last Saturday’s storm came two years after Cyclone Idai hit the same area and killed 600 people. And since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, 34,000 Mozambicans have been infected with the coronavirus, filling shelters and leaving many people displaced by Cyclone Eloíse with nowhere to go.  

"It is heartbreaking to talk to those who were already rebuilding their crops, rebuilding their homes,” says Kaulard, “and went through losing everything again.” 

An aerial view of the flooded damage caused above the affected area after Cyclone Eloise.

Caption: Tropical Cyclone Eloíse killed at least 11 people and has affected more than 440,000.

Photo: UNICEF Mozambique/Ricardo Franco

The International Community and the UN step up 

A man walks through the flooded neighbourhood carrying a big black bag above his head.

Caption: Residents of the Praia Nova neighbourhood in Beira City seek shelter and protection from Cyclone Eloíse.

Photo: UNICEF Mozambique/Ricardo Franco

Various United Nations agencies including OCHA, UNICEF, WFP, IOM, UNFPA, UNDP, UN-Habitat and UNHCR are supporting the response led by the Government of Mozambique and assessing the extent of the damages. 

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is focusing its efforts on the residents of Praia Nova, in the city of Beira, one of the most affected neighbourhoods in the area. According to UNICEF, approximately 90,000 children in central Mozambique urgently need humanitarian assistance after the cyclone. 

A little boy covers his head with a coat to help prevent him from getting wet from the rain.

Photo: UNICEF Mozambique/Ricardo Franco

The World Food Programme (WFP) is supporting the Emergency National Operation Centre hotline, and so far has made around 640 metric tons of food available from its warehouse in Beira.  

Community members register with WFP in Beira City.

Caption: Affected community members register with WFP in Beira City.

Photo: WFP/Rafael Campos

The United Nations Development Program is on the ground with the government and other partners assessing damage in urban areas.  

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is providing affected women and girls with “dignity kits” that contain soap, panties, masks, disposable sanitary towels, and other items. 

UN-Habitat, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, is providing technical support to humanitarian partners to rehabilitate damaged public infrastructure in Sofala Province and its capital, the city of Beira. 

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says that more than half of the 71 resettlement centers that provide housing for people displaced by Cyclone Idai are located in areas that have now been affected by Cyclone Eloíse. IOM is distributing soap and masks to the most vulnerable, and communicating the ongoing need for social distancing.  

An aerial view of the the destroyed infrastructure due to the heavy floods after the cyclone.

Caption: Cyclone Eloíse destroyed public infrastructure, roads, health centres, classrooms, electric poles and thousands of houses.

Photo: INGD

Thanks to its network of local NGOs, the Global Protection Cluster Task Team in Humanitarian Action — led by UNHCR — has provided psychosocial support in various centres that welcomed evacuated and displaced people. 

Hugo Reichenberger, Protection Cluster Coordinator in Beira, joined an observation flight over Buzi, one of the districts most affected by Cyclone Eloíse. He says the scale of the damage is overwhelming and the need is great.  

"When flying over Buzi,” he says, “it is difficult to imagine that this was a city because it seems that we are now flying over an ocean.” 

A mother and child sit on the ground together holding bowls for food with the possessions to the left of them, including a dignity kit by UNFPA.

Caption: UNFPA Mozambique distributes dignity kits to women and girls affected by Cyclone Eloíse

Photo: UNFPA Mozambique/Alex Muianga

Produced by UN Mozambique. Adaptation of the original Portuguese article, written by Helvisney Dos Reis Cardoso, Communications, Reporting and Outreach Specialist, UN Mozambique. Translated by Carolina Lorenzo and edited by Paul VanDeCarr, Development Coordination Office. To learn more, visit: https://mozambique.un.org/

UN entities involved in this initiative
IOM
International Organization for Migration
OCHA
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
UN-Habitat
United Nations Human Settlements Programme
UNFPA
United Nations Population Fund
UNICEF
United Nations Children’s Fund
WFP
World Food Programme

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