Climate Change - Case Study

Africa is one of the continents most at risk from climate change. [1] Observed temperatures have indicated a warming trend since the 1960s and IPCC projections suggest that annual temperatures in the region will rise by 3.4 degrees Celsius. [2]

In southern Africa, annual rainfall is likely to decrease, with a higher mean rainfall in the northeast region, while the south and centre is expected to be drier. [3]  Only a smaller pocket of the northeast is expected to become wetter – and it is unclear where the geographic division between the ‘wetter’ northeast and ‘dryer’ south/central regions will be. The models generally agree on a drying trend for much of the 21st century, and some suggest shorter rainy seasons. [4] Despite the expected drop in overall rainfall for the region, most models agree that what rainfall there is, will fall in a smaller area in the northeast. This suggests that the severity and incidence of heavy precipitation events in the northeast – including Mozambique – is expected to rise. [5]

Mozambique- already more frequently and severely affected by natural disasters than virtually any other country in Africa [6] - is therefore expected to see more precipitation in fewer, more extreme events. [7] The frequency and severity of flooding in Mozambique is expected to increase as a result. In addition, with the expected change in sea water temperatures, the west Indian Ocean tropical cyclones are predicted to be more severe and more frequent in the future – however there is little detailed meteorological modelling on how these storm patterns would evolve.

Mozambique: 2007 floods and cyclone

The magnitude of the cyclone and floods (together with drought conditions in the south of the country, which have not been part of the UN humanitarian response) all point to the effects of global warming. These natural disasters are growing more frequent and more severe with time, highlighting the importance of national preparedness to reduce the vulnerability of the population to such events and minimize their impact.” [1]

Crosgrave, J. et al. Inter-agency real-time evaluation of the response to the 
February 2007 floods and cyclone in Mozambique, 2007

By the end of February 2007, Mozambique was reeling from the double impact of two catastrophic natural disasters. While the Zambezi and Save rivers were already flooded, a Category Four cyclone brought more rain inland and devastated the southern coast, affecting about 300,000 to 500,000 people. [2]  Some 100,000 people still remain displaced in resettlement centres. [3]  The disaster also caused approximately US$171 million in damage to local infrastructure [4] and destroyed 277,000 hectares of crops – an estimated 80 percent of the cereal crop in the affected areas. [5]

For a country with 54 percent of its population below the poverty line, these recurring disasters exacerbate people’s existing vulnerabilities and represent major economic setbacks. [6] The loss of assets – such as homes, livestock, clothing, agricultural tools and seeds – had a devastating impact for a population dependent on subsistence agriculture and fishing. Poverty, and the lack of viable alternatives to living in the flood plain, underlies this exposure to repeated shocks. [7]

Ironically, damming the Zambezi to control flooding has put more people at risk. The ability to control the annual floods encouraged encroachment on to the lowlands of the lower Zambezi, where the land is very fertile. However, major flood events overwhelm the capacity of the dams and they are becoming more frequent. The communities currently living in the flood plain are essentially accepting the risk of major floods in return for better harvests and fishing. From a risk reduction perspective, one solution is to encourage permanent resettlement on higher ground,  [8] but many do not see this as a viable alternative to the more fertile flood plains. The national disaster management authority estimated that of those evacuated during the 2000, 2001 and 2007 floods, some 40 percent returned to the flood plains. [9]

Effective disaster preparedness and response

In this emergency, it was very clear that there was a payback from preparedness, both in terms of community disaster preparedness, general agency preparedness, and specific preparedness for the floods”. [1]

Although limited in scale, the 2007 floods provide insight into the elements that make up an effective national and international response. [2] The response has been considered a success as there was no widespread suffering or avoidable deaths. This is credited largely to an effective national preparedness and response coordination, with international donors and agencies in support. While evaluations have identified numerous best practices, the key preparedness elements that ensured a successful response were found to be:

  • Strong national leadership and political commitment to preparedness. In particular, the clear political support and direction that led to the creation of the national disaster management institute (INGC) and subsequent implementation of extensive preparedness measures
  • Availability of resources, technical support and funds for preparedness. In addition to national resources, international donor investment and support to the INGC and related preparedness action was instrumental
  • Active involvement of communities, civil society and agencies in the implementation of disaster preparedness measures in advance
  • Strong international-national working relations in preparedness activities (such as the October 2007 Simulation Exercises)
  • Rapid availability of sufficient funds via the CERF during the response

These elements are explored in more detail below:

Key national measures

  1. Creation of the National Disaster Management Institute in 2000. The creation of the Instituto National de Gestão de Calamidades (INGC) was instrumental in putting in place disaster preparedness measures and eventually coordinating the 2007 flood response. Created in 2000, the INGC attempted to coordinate the national response to the floods in 2001, and subsequently embarked on extensive consultations and implementation of disaster preparedness measures.  The Director of INGC, Paulo Zucula, was appointed in 2005 with a direct reporting line to the prime minister during the emergency. The excellent political support from the Mozambique government enabled the INGC to undertake its disaster preparedness and response work effectively.
  2. Importing expertise and know-how from Latin America. Rather than look to developed countries, the INGC sought out solutions for preparedness and response from Latin America, as the operating conditions in Guatemala and Honduras more closely matched the Mozambique context (i.e. similar climatic conditions, frequent natural disasters, prevailing poverty, inequality and lack of government capacity). Many of the techniques and approaches adopted by the INGC were adopted following numerous exchanges with counterparts in Latin America.
  3. National preparedness measures implemented in advance. With political and international support, funding and resources, the INGC was equipped to plan and implement disaster preparedness measures ahead of the 2007 response.  Key steps taken include:


  • Creation of the National Emergency Operations Centre (Centro Nacional Operativo de Emergencia CENOE). Modelled on similar centres in Guatemala, CENOE was set up on a military base near Maputo airport to provide a communications and coordination centre in a disaster, while up to three other centres were planned for regional coordination. [3] During emergencies, a core group of decision-makers – including government and military representatives – were based in the same room at CENOE which led to a rapid exchange of information and decision-making. Radio antennae and computer equipment also enabled CENOE staff to communicate with their teams in the Zambezi river basin during the emergency.
  • Active participation of local community and civil society networks. With the help of civil society groups, the INGC was able to involve the local population in disaster preparedness and response. Local networks were in place to reach larger population centres in rural areas through radio broadcasts, field trips and mobile telephones. Committees in most villages were trained to organise and carry out evacuations. In the weeks before the flood the INGC, through these networks, was able to conduct village-by-village consultations in many at-risk areas. [4] The strong performance of the Mozambique Red Cross demonstrated the importance of civil society organisations and NGOs as a vital link with the population.
  • Simulation Exercises. The simulation exercises conducted in late 2006, which involved government departments, the national Red Cross and a limited number of international agencies were cited as an excellent preparation for the 2007 response. The exercises helped to identify weaknesses in the contingency plans, such as in communications, so that these were rectified before the eventual response.
  • Other notable measures taken at the national level included: a) pre-positioning of staff and relief supplies to Caia in January 2007; b) customs clearance for international relief supplies in less than 24 hours; c) civilian oversight and coordination, with police and military in supporting the response.

Key international measures

  1. International investment in national disaster management capacity.  International donor support was critical to building up the national disaster management capacity prior to the 2007 floods. Donors help fund the employment and training of 285 staff and equipped national headquarters and regional offices to support disaster management at central, regional and local levels. In particular, the role of GTZ proved instrumental: the German agency contributed two million euros for disaster preparedness, seconded several technical staff into the INGC, paid for a number of projects; including equipping the emergency response centres, training and simulation exercises.
  2. Rapid availability of funds through the CERF. The CERF provided almost a third of the international funds committed to the flood response and helped to ensure a rapid response and “a larger programme of assistance than would have otherwise been possible”. [5] These funds meant UN agencies were able to spend their own resources and deploy their stockpiles, in the knowledge that they would be replenished. [6] National resources were found to be insufficient to meet the humanitarian needs of the affected populations in April 2007 and the international response played an important role in meeting the urgent needs of the affected communities once relocated to the temporary accommodation centres. 
  3. Good working relations between government and international agencies. While the national and international coordination systems operated in parallel, the broad consensus was that there had been good working relations and trust between national and international actors.  This was largely credited to prior experience of working closely together prior to the flood response, not least in October 2006 simulation exercises. A high proportion of agency staff involved in the flood response were already based in the country for some time and spoke Portuguese. 
  4. Cluster approach. While the cluster approach was cited as having a positive impact on the coordination of international aid in response to the flood, there were mixed views as to how critical the approach was to the success of the response. One evaluation found no significant difference between the Zambezi Valley floods response, in which the cluster approach was used, and the Cyclone Favio, in which it was not. [7]