Mozambique is highly vulnerable to extreme climatic conditions with two out of three people living in coastal areas vulnerable to rapid-onset disasters such as cyclones, storms and flash floods. Although the southern and central regions are prone to drought, floods frequently occur along major river basins and in poorly drained urban settlements.
In 2017, the country experienced a number of overlapping hazards and concurrent crises, including two years of consecutive drought triggered by the El Niño phenomenon that led to severe food and nutrition insecurity. In addition, Mozambique was devastated by flooding, outbreaks of cholera, a tropical cyclone, and political and security instability resulting in pockets of population displacement throughout the country. According to UNICEF, drought affected 2.1 million people, mostly in the southern and central provinces of Mozambique, Cyclone Dineo affected 550,000 people in Inhambane province, 21,543 people were displaced by conflict and 3,616 cases of cholera were reported.
On 17 January 2018, a tropical depression hit northern Nampula Province, affecting more than 80,000 people and killing 34, according to the Mozambique Institute for Disaster Management (INGC). The INGC assisted victims in the affected region with temporary shelters and food.
Meteorologists forecasted that the southern region would receive below-normal rains during the first three months of 2018. In addition, the Disaster Management Technical Commission (CTGC) issued an “orange alert” on 14 February for the southern region of the country following a severe drought, particularly in the Umbeluzi Basin in Maputo province. From 2014 to 2017, the Umbeluzi river basin recorded below average rainfall and an increment in the rates of evaporation in the entire basin. The Pequenos Libombos dam, which is the main source of drinking water for the Greater Maputo Metropolitan area, was reportedly less than 20 per cent full.
The authorities initiated awareness campaigns to decrease water use and water was rationed for more than one million residents in Maputo and its surrounding areas, which raised fears of disease outbreaks as people resort to unsafe sources. Plans were underway to operationalize 36 boreholes in the area. A ban imposed in January 2018 on the use of Umbeluzi water for irrigated agriculture had serious consequences for the banana plantations in the Unebluzi Valley.
FEWS NET noted that significantly below-average rainfall in the south, particularly in Gaza Province, and parts of central Mozambique has continued, and has already led to crop failure in some southern areas. A mid-January FEWS NET assessment to parts of Gaza Province, which had received less than 55 per cent of normal rainfall since October 2017, confirmed the effects of the ongoing water stress. In Guijá District and parts of other neighbouring districts, the first cropping season failed, and poor households were preparing for the second season but finding it challenging to afford and acquire needed seeds.
While the updated forecast for 2018 indicates normal to below-normal rainfall in much of the south, the current dryness continues to negatively affect cropping conditions. Staple food prices, particularly of maize grain, have been atypical, as they have not seasonally increased. Maize grain prices have generally remained consistently stable since July/August and are on average well below last year’s prices by 61 per cent and below the five-year average by 28 per cent.
Given the prospects of a poor harvest from the current cropping season in the south, maize grain prices in southern markets may increase through March. Overall, Minimal level of food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) persist countrywide, except for Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in parts of north-western Sofala Province and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in other parts of Sofala, Tete, and Manica provinces.