In the rural village of Buzi, central Mozambique, Fátima António stared down at a flattened pile of wooden planks and twisted tin roofing where her neighbour’s home once stood.
When Idai, the strongest cyclone ever recorded in southern Africa, barreled across the region in 2019, the 23-year-old said the house was unharmed. However, the small property was not so fortunate when another cyclone struck earlier this year.
In an interview three months after Cyclone Eloise struck, António expressed her dissatisfaction with the recovery and rebuilding efforts that followed Idai.
“We thought we had been forgotten,” António said.
As changing weather patterns linked to climate change trigger more intense floods and cyclones in Mozambique – the country fifth most affected by extreme weather in the world over the past two decades, according to the 2021 Global Climate Risk Index – the government and its donors are trying to shift their response. Instead of picking up the pieces after each disaster strikes, they want to prevent the worst from happening in the first place
There have been some notable initiatives: new infrastructure projects have reduced flooding in major cities; an improved early warning system alerts residents to impending disasters; and thousands of people have been resettled from low-lying, flood-prone areas to supposedly safer locations on higher ground.
But many of the initiatives come with catches and compromises, other projects need further investment, and rebuilding efforts are still limited in scope, leaving residents like António unable to adapt to future threats – something organisers of COP26 have called for urgent action on as the UN climate change conference gets underway this week.
Almost 500,000 people were affected by Eloise, which damaged and destroyed over 56,000 homes in January. Aid groups said the cyclone undid much of the “hard-won progress” they had made since Idai and underscored just how much infrastructure still hadn’t been repaired.
On a trip earlier this year to the central province of Sofala – where Buzi is located – government officials told The New Humanitarian they don’t have enough funding to implement large infrastructure projects on the scale needed to fully adapt to the climate crisis.
Other residents described feelings of abandonment by the government, which has made climate adaptation a national priority but is bogged down by other conflicts and crises: from a high-profile graft scandal to the deadly extremist violence that has rocked gas-rich Cabo Delgado province.
“Everyone has to fight a war to stay here on Earth,” said Carolina Pracido, a mother of five who lost her home when Eloise swept through her neighbourhood in the port city of Beira, which lies on the Indian Ocean and is the capital of Sofala province.