Families are assisted to cross flood affected areas after heavy rains washed away parts of the national north-south road. (copyright: WFP/Photolibrary)
Mozambique is no stranger to floods. Twelve years ago, flood waters killed hundreds of people in the central region of the country. This time around, Mozambique was better prepared.
With the New Year, the cyclone season arrived along Africa's south-eastern coastline. Towards the end of January, the Mozambican coast was battered first by Tropical Storm Dando, then by Cyclone Funso, a grade-three cyclone that hit the northern province of Zambezia, causing damage to houses, schools and roads.
The cyclone hit just days after flood waters – driven by tropical downpours upstream in South Africa and Swaziland – inundated towns in southern and central Mozambique, rupturing the country’s main north-south road. More tropical storms could not be ruled out.
As good tacticians know, preparation should be 90% of any action plan. This is the case in Mozambique where, for the first time, the UN Humanitarian Country Team and the National Institute for Disaster Management designed a combined national contingency plan.
Supporting the Government
Since the declaration of an Institutional Orange Alert on 16 January, WFP - together with other UN agencies and NGOs - has been supporting the Government in making rapid assessments to guage the scale of the crisis and the required response.
WFP quickly deployed staff to the field, providing technical support in mapping, logistics and information-analysis as well as supporting telecommunications and overall response. WFP is on the front line of the action: WFP Country Director Lola Castro, together with UNICEF’s representative, co-chairs the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) Working Group, which includes all UN and NGO humanitarian actors in Mozambique. Together with the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, WFP leads three HCT clusters – Logistics, Food Security, and Information & Communications Technology. In the last week in January, WFP responded to a Government request to feed flood-affected people in Zambezia Province.
Daily disaster meetings
As part of the HCT working group, WFP meets daily with the National Institute for Disaster Management at its emergency operations centres at central and provincial levels to assess the situation on the ground and provide effective responses to the needs of affected communties.
The work that went into contingency planning, preparedness activities and early warning systems has enabled the Government and the UN to respond increasingly rapidly to each successive cyclone season.