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Mozambique: Gombe Emergency Response Plan (June 2022)

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Communities in Mozambique are suffering from the impact of Tropical Cyclone Gombe, which left a trail of severe damage and devastation in its path. Tropical Cyclone Gombe made its first landfall in Mozambique in Nampula province on 11 March, hitting as a Category 3 cyclone and bringing torrential rains (200mm/24h) and violent winds (150-185km/h). The fury of Gombe's winds toppled trees and ripped off roofs of buildings, destroyed houses, schools, and health centers, and washed away roads and crops. Overnight, hundreds of thousands of people were affected, and thousands were left homeless.

At the height of the crisis, more than 736,000 people were affected, and 23,000 people were displaced. The displaced persons sought shelter in schools, churches, mosques, abandoned buildings, and government administrative headquarters posts, turning these into over 68 temporary accommodation centers across the affected provinces (44 in Nampula province and 20 in Zambezia, along with four relocation sites). Corrane resettlement site, which hosts over 1,605 families (7,235 individuals) displaced from the conflict in Cabo Delgado, was greatly affected by the cyclone, with more than 742 shelters severely damaged as well as some 400 more shelters and numerous other infrastructures partially damaged.

The cyclone made landfall near the areas where Tropical Storm Ana and Tropical Depression Dumako had already struck six weeks prior, exacerbating pre-existing vulnerabilities. The combined effects of Tropical Storm Ana, which hit the country in January, and Tropical Depression Dumako, which struck in February, affected more than 200,000 people in Nampula, Zambezia, and Tete provinces. After hovering over Nampula province, Tropical Cyclone Gombe moved out into the sea, only to track back into Mozambique and make a new landfall in Zambezia province at the stage of a tropical depression.

The new landfall brought new rains, which triggered further flooding.

The magnitude of needs and damage is widespread and severe. The final data on the impact released by the Institute for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction (INGD) indicated that Gombe affected at least 736,015 people (148,253 families) across Nampula, Zambezia, and Sofala provinces, causing 63 deaths and injuring 108 people. As of mid-April, a total of 141,854 houses were partially damaged or destroyed, along with 69 health centers, 2,265 classrooms (affecting 216,003 students), 2,764 electricity poles, and 21 water systems. Some 91,177 hectares of crops were lost, with grave concern for the food security outlook of the affected areas. A total of 1,243 km of roads were severely damaged.

Nampula province, the area most affected by Gombe and a very densely populated one, is an economically and culturally dynamic part of Mozambique due to the Nacala port and railway connecting Malawi and Zambia with the Indian Ocean. The province accounts for 14.8 per cent of Mozambique's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and hosts Ilha de Moçambique, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to being densely populated, Nampula hosts more than 100,000 IDPs from the conflict in Cabo Delgado.

The Government's preparedness and response efforts played a critical role in preventing further loss of lives and quickly responding to the unfolding needs of the displaced people who had lost everything. Pre-emptive evacuation and early warning messaging broadcasted by INGD alerted communities of the impending danger. Response efforts included prepositioning and distributing food and non-food items, search and rescue operations, evacuation of the stranded population, and establishment of temporary accommodation centers, among others.

National authorities and the UN teams have worked hand in hand to gain access, assess needs, and deliver urgent assistance to those in need. As the scale of the disaster became apparent, humanitarian partners continued working to scale up the ongoing response in coordination with the Government.

In the last few weeks, the early multi-sectoral response mechanisms of the Government and humanitarian partners, coupled with individual resilience, enabled a rapid return process for many displaced families to their areas of origin. Nonetheless, several displaced persons could not return to their places of origin due to the complete or partial destruction of their homes and property. Others were unable to return due to their specific vulnerabilities, as was the case for elderly, child-headed families, single-headed families, and persons living with disabilities. As of mid-April, only four temporary accommodation centers remained open in Ilha de Moçambique.

However, the humanitarian needs generated by Gombe are currently outstripping the capacity of humanitarian organizations to respond. Resources to respond to the crisis in the north were already scarce at the beginning of the year when Tropical Storm Ana and Tropical Depression Dumako impacted Mozambique and created new needs. Additional support is urgently needed to cover the people's basic needs.

More resources are needed to do more as needs are severe. People require safe, temporary shelter and repair kits to rebuild their homes and their lives. Many of them still require food, potable water, medicines, and sanitation and hygiene facilities to prevent water-borne diseases and support weakened communities that have been exhausted by three consecutive natural disasters. Health facilities must be urgently repaired to enable them to provide essential services, particularly nutrition and reproductive services. Schools must also be repaired to ensure the continuity of education and prevent those thousands of children drop out of school. These children had already seen their education jeopardized during the pandemic. They now cannot go back because their classrooms were damaged or destroyed or used as accommodation centers by people who had lost their houses. People who lost their livelihoods will require immediate assistance and agricultural support to avoid facing higher levels of food insecurity and further exposure to risks of sexual exploitation and abuse.

Humanitarian partners are particularly concerned about heightened food insecurity amongst the affected communities, particularly if the waters do not recede soon. Flooding could lead to a harvest loss and a substantial increase in food prices when Mozambique faces a fragile food security situation, with approximately 1.9 million people estimated to be food insecure (IPC Phase 3 or above).

There are widespread protection concerns in the aftermath of the cyclone as families have been separated. The risk of gender-based violence (GBV) is rife, and many of the displaced or evacuated people have lost civil documentation. People impacted by the cyclone require mental and psychosocial support to cope with the uncertainty about their situation following the loss of property and livelihoods in the medium to long term. In such a context, harmful coping mechanisms such as transactions sex, child labor, and human trafficking are also a risk.

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