UN chief makes climate change plea in cyclone-hit Mozambique

Published July 13, 2019, 7:20 AM

by Patrick Garcia

By Agence France-Presse

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday issued a strong plea for action on climate change as he visited Beira in central Mozambique, which was devastated by a cyclone in March.

Guterres met people living at a resettlement camp in cyclone-hit central Mozambique (AFP Photo/WIKUS DE WET)
Guterres met people living at a resettlement camp in cyclone-hit central Mozambique (AFP Photo/WIKUS DE WET)

“Mozambique’s case must be a clear example to the world,” he told reporters. “The larger nations must assume strong positions against global warming.

“It’s urgent to stop funding fossil fuels.”

Cyclone Idia, followed by Cyclone Kenneth, smashed into Mozambique in March and April 2019, hitting the centre and north of the country just six weeks apart in an unprecedented weather pattern.

More than two million people were affected and about 650 died.

The UN has said Mozambique is highly vulnerable to extreme weather and rising sea-levels caused by climate change.

Rising sea levels increase the strength of storm surges and drive more powerful waves towards the shore.

Four months after Cyclone Idai, Guterres visited a camp where 480 families have sheltered in tents since the storm.

“My husband has disappeared since the night of the cyclone,” Marta Muchanga, the mother of two children, said, adding that her house and all her belongings had been swept away.

“We do not know if he died because his body was never found. I live here with my two children and I have no job. I braid hair to survive and feed my children.”

– Dire shortage of funds –
Jonas Chicote, a local leader in the Mandruzi resettlement camp, said that many families had been split up.

“The rescue process prioritised the rescue of children in the first place and many parents lost their children. Over the course of time, some have been re-united,” he said.

One survivor said the displaced families in the camp were short of food.

Aid agencies Save the Children, CARE and Oxfam on Friday issued a joint-statement calling for further emergency food assistance as 433,000 families had had their farming land destroyed.

“The cyclones and flooding are proof that climate change hurts the poorest, the most,” the statement added.

The UN said that humanitarian relief operations had reached 1.8 million people since Cyclone Idai stuck, with 1,000 aid workers deployed across the impact zone.

But it added that less than half of the $282 million required to complete the recovery work had been raised.

“I was impressed with the capacity of Mozambicans to recover from disasters,” Guterres said.

“Everywhere I saw people busy rebuilding their lives. I’ve launched major appeals to the world to mobilise aid to Mozambique but we still need more.

“There’s recent research indicating that Mozambique is the second country worldwide most vulnerable to climate change effects.

“Mozambique’s contribution to global warm is zero, so the bigger nations that most contribute to global warming must assist it.

“I don’t want to see our money financing destruction like what happened in Mozambique.”