'The sea is rising, the climate is changing': the lessons learned from Mozambique’s deadly cyclone
By Sally Williams
As another severe tropical storm hits Mozambique, people still struggling to rebuild lives destroyed by 2019’s Cyclone Idai tell their stories.
Today, Vasco Limo, Chiramswuana and around 2,300 other homeless people still live in the camp. They have to stand in line for aid, as their last harvest was another disaster. “Intense heat burned the crop,” Chiramswuana says. But the most recent seeds “are growing nicely”, and there are mangoes to pick from the trees. As the months go on, Vasco Limo tells me “things are improving slowly”; she now has solar panels. But there is a new fear: Covid-19. Rates are relatively low in Mozambique, with 16,521 cases and 139 deaths recorded by December, but there is little testing, so it’s hard to know the virus’s full extent. While Ndedja is Covid-free, fear of it hangs over the camp.
“Cyclone Idai taught us many lessons,” says Carlos da Barca, 47, deputy administrator of Dondo, a district bordering Beira. “We have better tools for weather forecasts, better ways to inform our citizens. But that is all we have: the power to inform, not to respond.” Today, Mozambique is still ill-equipped to avert catastrophe. Poverty, scarce resources and lack of investment to combat the climate crisis continue to threaten millions of lives. “While we can predict tropical cyclones days in advance, early warnings only help to save lives if people have somewhere safe to go,” Dr Otto says.
Aid agencies argue for disaster preparedness – strong defences against the worst of what is to come. There are low-tech conservation solutions: preserving grasslands, restoring forests, planting mangroves. But the world’s major polluting countries also need to make sacrifices for distant threatened nations. The IMF has told rich countries, which have created the lion’s share of the warming so far, that they must do more to help. “Rising temperatures would have vastly unequal effects across the world, with the brunt of adverse consequences borne by those who can least afford it,” it said in 2017. And, of course, in the past nine months, the climate crisis has fallen down the political agenda, sidelined by Covid.