COVID-19 pandemic compounds existing humanitarian needs
COVID-19 arrived in Mozambique at a time when humanitarian needs were already rising due to consecutive climatic shocks in multiple parts of the country and the ongoing escalation of the conflict in Cabo Delgado Province. The necessary restrictions imposed to contain the pandemic compounded the situation, increasing the need for humanitarian assistance. Over a year and a half on from cyclones Idai and Kenneth, more than 100,000 displaced people by the storms are still living in 76 temporary sites across six provinces in the central and northern regions of the country. With limited access to essential services, including healthcare, water, hygiene and protection services, as well as livelihood opportunities, the displaced population are particularly at risk of contracting COVID-19 and suffering the humanitarian consequences of the pandemic. The situation is also concerning for the population of the major cities across the country, as access to clean water and appropriate sanitation is a major challenge for most of the 80 per cent of urban dwellers who live in informal settlements.
In addition, the pandemic is stretching the already fragile health system, with Maputo (City and Province), Cabo Delgado and Zambezia provinces amongst the hardest-hit. At the end of October, more than 12,000 people had contracted COVID-19 across all the country’s 11 provinces, and over 90 people died from the disease. At the same time, Mozambique is also dealing with multiple and endemic disease outbreaks, including malaria in different parts and cholera that has affected almost 1,800 people and killed nearly 30 since January in Cabo Delgado. Critical services—such as sexual and reproductive health care, immunization activities and continuity of care for HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and cholera—are expected to be disrupted as resources shift to the COVID-19 response, potentially increasing maternal and infant deaths.
COVID-19 is also exacerbating an already alarming food security situation, with an estimated 4 million people facing hunger. The pandemic-related restrictions particularly impacted the economy of the most vulnerable families, adding to the food crisis triggered by drought in different parts of southern and central Mozambique. The loss of jobs and incomes are pushing additional 2.5 million people to severe levels of food insecurity and exhausting their fragile coping capacity. Many families could be forced to resort to negative coping mechanisms, including child marriage and transactional sex.
The social and economic consequences of the pandemic are leading to increased protection concerns, particularly for women and children. As stressors rise, the risk of gender-based violence (GBV) also multiplies. Those with limited mobility, particularly the elderly and people living with disabilities, already at increased risk of developing serious illness if they contract OVID-19, may face further barriers to access life-saving services due to movement restrictions.
The situation could exacerbate further, as the pandemic persists and most of the related containment measures continue. The State of Emergency that lasted from 1 April until 6 September was replaced by an indefinite Situation of Public Calamity. The declaration, on 7 September under the new Disaster Management Law, was accompanied by a Red Alert, the maximum level of warning decreed in the event of an imminent large-scale threat. In this period, most of the measures against COVID-19 previously imposed, including limitations to social gatherings, public and economic activities, will remain in force. In the meantime, the Government started to gradually reopen a number of services and economic sectors that were closed down during the State of Emergency.
To address the most urgent needs of people affected by the health and social impact of COVID-19, humanitarians in Mozambique launched a US$68 million Flash Appeal to provide life-saving assistance to nearly 3 million people across the country. The appeal supports the Government-led response to COVID-19, addressing both the immediate public health crisis and also providing humanitarian assistance and protection to vulnerable groups whose lives and livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic. Some $16 million are destined for the health sector, and $52 million for urgent support on food security and livelihoods, water, sanitation and hygiene. By the end of October, only 25 per cent of the total requested had been received.