Ahead of this this week’s donor conference in the cyclone-ravaged city of Beira, Oxfam, Save the Children and CARE are calling on donors to meet or exceed a proposed $5 million target for gender programming to support women and girls in re-establishing their lives. This money will help women and girls have more equal access to income, education, health and other resources – and protect them from risks such as gender based-violence. The gender target comes in a joint needs assessment overseen by the government and the United Nations that has proposed a mere 0.17% of funds for programming to benefit women and girls – despite highlighting their acute vulnerabilities and needs throughout.
Even prior to the disaster, women faced inequality in Mozambique, a nation that ranks in the bottom 20 nations on the UNDP Gender Inequality Index. Every aspect of this response needs to prioritise women’s and girls’ distinct needs, otherwise they risk falling even further behind as a result of the disaster.
Beira saw the worst of Cyclone Idai’s damage in March before the northernmost province, Cabo Delgado, was then pummelled by a second Cyclone Kenneth in April. Despite two massive Cyclones hitting the region in fast succession, funding and international attention has been low. The UN appeal remains less than 40% funded.
Rotafina Donco, the Oxfam Mozambique Country Director, says, “Women and girls have unique needs and face specific risks during and after an emergency. The women of Mozambique contribute so much to their country, especially in this time of crisis. We must use this opportunity to make sure women are protected and given the support and tools to lead their families and communities to recover and are recognized for their important role in the future of Mozambique. We can’t just talk about supporting women and girls – we need to see it funded and in practice every day.”
As donors arrive in Beira, thousands of families are still reeling from the loss of loved ones, homes, incomes, and sense of security. There are still remote communities who we’ve only just reached, and who we must continue to support in the long road to recovery.
Save the Children’s Country Director for Mozambique, Chance Briggs, says,“Children are vulnerable to all kinds of risks in the wake of a disaster. Girls especially, are at high risk for exploitation, trafficking, early marriage and child labour. One of the best protections against these risks is to ensure that they are able to return to immediately return to learning after a disaster. Education is a life-saving intervention, providing children a sense of normalcy, and in the longer term, builds their resilience to future shocks and stresses. Education is a right and needs to be included at all phases of this response. Right now, the education response has not been sufficiently funded. This is not good enough. Mozambique’s children deserve better.”
“Affected communities have lost everything and are struggling to rebuild their lives from scratch,”
says Marc Nosbach, CARE’s country director in Mozambique. “It is necessary not only to address their immediate needs, but also to invest in recovery programs that take into account the vulnerability of some of the community members, especially women and girls. In focus groups with women who were impacted by both cyclones, we have found multiple protection concerns, such as their safety in new resettlement sites, fear of exploitation, increased social tensions, and violence that could stem from the change of gender roles due to the loss or injury of male members. All these issues need more support and funding flexibility for aid organizations to be able to plan their responses properly.”
Disasters like Idai and Kenneth strike more than one blow – the initial devastation is only the beginning, with months or years of difficult recovery ahead. Mozambique will face more frequent and more intense natural disasters related to our changing climate, and the humanitarian community cannot be complacent or allow vulnerable communities to fall further behind. Resources and attention have their limits, so donors must be effective and ensure money and efforts are invested to make communities more equitable and more prepared for any future disasters.
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