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Natural disasters, population displacement and health emergencies: multiple public health threats in Mozambique

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Vánio A Mugabe, Eduardo S Gudo, Osvaldo F Inlamea, Uriel Kitron, Guilherme S Ribeiro


In early 2019, following the 2015–2016 severe drought, the provinces of Sofala and Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, were hit by Cyclones Idai and Kenneth, respectively. These were the deadliest and most destructive cyclones in the country’s history. Currently, these two provinces host tens of thousands of vulnerable households due to the climatic catastrophes and the massive influx of displaced people associated with violent terrorist attacks plaguing Cabo Delgado. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic added a new challenge to this already critical scenario, serving as a real test for Mozambique’s public health preparedness. On the planetary level, Mozambique can be viewed as a ‘canary in the coal mine’, harbingering to the world the synergistic effects of co-occurring anthropogenic and natural disasters. Herein, we discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated the need for an effective and comprehensive public health response in a country already deeply impacted by health problems associated with natural disasters and population displacement.

Summary box

  • In 2019, Mozambique was hit consecutively by the two deadliest and most destructive cyclones of the last decades of the country’s history, following the 2015–2016 severe drought.

  • This was the first time in Mozambique’s recorded history that a drought, a series of severe cyclones and floods occurred consecutively, pointing to the need for better preparedness to address similar phenomena in the future in the context of climate changes.

  • Terrorist attack and the COVID-19 pandemic added new challenges to this already critical scenario.

  • The national health system needs to not only respond to emergencies, but also to participate in multisectoral actions to prevent the effects of disasters on exposed populations.