Emergency measures are being stepped up by the UN and partners in northern Mozambique, amid fears that another devastating tropical storm could batter coastal areas on Thursday evening, weeks after Cyclone Idai claimed hundreds of lives and flooded vast swathes of the south of the country.
“We are expecting that heavy rain will provoke flash floods and landslides impacting the north-eastern provinces of Cabo Delgado and Nampula,” Word Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson Herve Verhoosel said.
“Another storm would be an additional blow for the people of Mozambique and further complicate the response in all areas.”
Confirming that the agency is “closely” watching the approaching weather system in the north and helping provincial authorities to prepare for the worst, Mr. Verhoosel explained that a joint WFP/ International Organization for Migration (IOM) assessment team, is already in place.
WFP has an office in the coastal town of Pemba – where the cyclone is expected to make landfall – and it also has some 300 metric tons of food aid in the northern coastal towns of Palma and Mocimboa da Praia, where humanitarian partners have been advised “to prepare the warehouses to protect the food and to weather the storm”, Mr. Verhoosel explained.
‘More than a million’ people still struggling after Idai devastation
Hundreds of kilometres away to the south, where Cyclone Idai made landfall six weeks ago causing massive devastation, a major aid operation is still ongoing.
“More than a million people (are) struggling to get back on their feet,” although floodwaters have receded in most areas, Mr. Verhoosel said.
In another development of serious concern, sex-for-aid allegations relating to food distribution for Idai victims in Nhamatanda district, Sofala province, have been strongly condemned by WFP.
Reacting to “shocking” allegations that emerged over the weekend of sexual exploitation and abuse relating to food distribution, the WFP spokesperson insisted that “no staff from WFP, or any UN agency or implementing partner” was involved.
“Upon learning of the allegations, which concerned demands for sex in exchange for food, WFP launched an immediate inquiry, interviewing women who said they had suffered abuse,” he said.
“Staff members heard of several cases of women and girls being asked for sex in exchange for food by community volunteers running food distributions.”
Stronger protection measures for vulnerable
In a bid to stamp out any sexual exploitation and abuse in the recovery effort, WFP intends to meet Government representatives to put in place “strengthened” protection measures for the most vulnerable, Mr. Verhoosel said.
Those affected by the alleged abuse will also receive additional support from UN agencies, the Government and NGOs, while partners in Mozambique are also receiving training to inform communities – before aid is distributed – that any person subjected to sexual exploitation and abuse should seek support from Government partners.
“WFP does not tolerate sexual harassment, exploitation or abuse (SEA) in any form. It is especially shocking if committed against those we serve and in the communities we serve,” Mr. Verhoosel said. “Zero tolerance means that a culture of impunity and complacency toward sexual exploitation and abuse is not accepted.”