Beira, Mozambique, 17 March 2020 - One year ago, two cyclones accompanied by heavy rains and winds hit two parts of Mozambique leaving a trail of devastation in their wake: death, displacement of populations, destruction of livelihoods and infrastructures in urban and rural areas affecting about 2 million people in 7 of 11 provinces in the south African nation.

In the first instance which happened on the night of 14 March 2019 Cyclone Idai hit the city of Beira in central Mozambique, with heavy rains and winds up to 220 Km/h, becoming the strongest tropical cyclone to ever hit the African continent. A month later, on April 25th, Cyclone Kenneth made landfall on the north of Mozambique, in Cabo Delgado Province. The consequences have been disastrous:

It was the first time the country was being hit by two tropical cyclones in the same cyclonic season. Mozambique is a country highly vulnerable to extreme weather events due to its morphology, location and socio-economic conditions. Idai and Kenneth confirmed that cyclonic activities in Mozambique are increasingly recurrent and intense, making the country one of the most vulnerable to climate change in Africa.

UN-Habitat has been working in Mozambique since 2002 in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Human Settlements Resilience Building, supporting and empowering the government and communities, to face the increasing consequences of climate change.

Immediately after the cyclones, the agency swung into action, mobilizing experts both from the Nairobi headquarters and leveraging its global partnerships embarked on supporting Mozambique in its reconstruction efforts.

Destroyed roof in Beira
Destroyed roof in Beira
[UN Mozambique/Karel Prinsloo]

Supporting the Mozambican government for a resilient recovery and reconstruction of cities and communities

UN-Habitat scaled up its projects to assist the Government and the people of Mozambique by providing technical assistance for a sustainable recovery of the affected Human Settlements and Communities. A special focus was on basic social infrastructures was given, especially on housing, school and health facilities in urban and rural areas.

In this regard, UN-Habitat signed a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding with the Post Cyclone Reconstruction Cabinet (GREPOC) and Eduardo Mondlane University with the main purpose of providing technical assistance and support for implementation to the Government of Mozambique in the fields of: Resilient Housing Recovery, Resilient Public Infrastructures and Integrated Urban Recovery through participatory approaches, following the principles of Building Back Better (BBB) and Resilience Building.

UN-Habitat has also been supporting local authorities with integrated damage assessments, resilient standards development, reconstruction and urban planning strategies. For example, an intervention in the city of Beira saw the mobilization of more than 200 million dollars for the implementation of key interventions. It also supported the City of Dondo to the develop the Cities Resilient Action Plan for post-cyclone Recovery.

Enabling resilient school reconstruction and rehabilitation for an uninterrupted access to education

Since 2004 UN-Habitat has been working with communities on ways to better respond to flooding, using the education sector as an entry point and has been  the government’s main partner for school reconstruction and rehabilitation.

After the cyclones, 1 380 schools were totally or partially destroyed, with 382,717 students and 9,616 teachers being affected. With this, the government decided to scale-up the Safer Schools approach and requested all partners to employ the resilient school building codes developed by UN-Habitat in the future school constructions.

UN-Habitat is also implementing projects for resilient school’s reconstruction and rehabilitation, working closely with UNICEF and Mozambique’s government, with the support the European Union and Education Cannot Wait Fund, UN-Habitat has been doing damage assessments of affected schools, trainings and monitoring. It has set the target of rehabilitating some 275 resilient classrooms as well as building additional 150 classrooms.

With the implementation of the Basic Emergency School Plan, UN-Habitat will also support the training of communities (including students and teachers) for a School Disaster Risk Management in areas affected by cyclones and floods.

School EPC Thungo in Buzi, Nova Sofala after cyclone idai/Workshop material for capacity building in Building Back Better
School EPC Thungo in Buzi, Nova Sofala after cyclone idai/Workshop material for capacity building in Building Back Better

UN Habitat’s leading role for resilient reconstruction in the housing sector

An estimated 240,000 houses were damaged or destroyed by Cyclone Idai and an additional 50,000 houses by Cyclone Kenneth. UN-Habitat has been requested by the Reconstruction Cabinet to lead the technical assistance in the housing sector, with the support of the World Bank, with the project Cyclone Idai and Kenneth Emergency Recovery and Resilience, that aims to put in place a reconstruction plan by 2024.

At the same time, UN-Habitat is developing several projects, to assist communities and strengthen public authorities’ capacity on resilient reconstruction in the Housing sector. One of the most notable achievement in policy work is the Post Cyclone Housing Reconstruction Strategy (PALPOC), through which is expected that the government will increase its capacity of coordination, fundraising, pooling more donors under this intervention framework.

The community-driven reconstruction process, using a participatory approach, is a methodology to be adopted which includes providing assistance to the communities and local governments. In Beira and Dondo, it was used to identify priority needs and develop frameworks to improve the community’s housing post-disaster reconstruction and rehabilitation.

The Resilient Housing Construction Standards and Models developed by UN-Habitat for scale up are being tested in Dondo, in partnership with UNDP, for the reconstruction of houses, as well as for rehabilitation and retrofit of damaged ones. UN-Habitat is also engaged in building capacities of the local communities, architects, engineers, contractors and the artisans on resilient construction and retrofitting.

Rehabilitation in progress of a pilot house in Dondo, Sofala
Rehabilitation in progress of a pilot house in Dondo, Sofala

With this, UN-Habitat will continue to support Mozambique, at all levels, and expand its projects to other areas to ensure to Mozambican people sustainable and safe cities and communities, and access to their human rights as housing, education and health.