Climate change impacts on health in Maputo, Mozambique

October 22, 2020, “Mozambique — Storms and Floods Leave 22 Dead, Thousands Affected”[1]

Maputo City is the geographically smallest and most densely populated province in Mozambique. There are many climate change and health concerns for the coastal areas of Mozambique. This article analyzes the top three concerns: tropical cyclones, flooding and drought in the Maputo area. These events are becoming more frequent and severe as the Earth gets hotter. They are particularly devastating for these vulnerable subpopulations: poor people, children under 5 years, and urban farmers.

The attributes of Maputo that make it particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are that it faces the Indian Ocean, is the most densely populated urban area in Mozambique, and that the rising sea level has resulted in salty intrusion. This has caused damage to agriculture and contributed to poverty. In Maputo and the surrounding area, more than 10,000 small-scale farmers practice agriculture within the city.[2] Additionally, agriculture continues to be the mainstay of Mozambique’s economy, contributing more than a quarter of its GDP and employing 80 percent of its labor force. The overwhelming majority of producers are subsistence farmers.

“At least 1.6 million people in the central and southern parts of Mozambique are presently in need of assistance due to the devastating effects of the ongoing drought and increasingly severe weather events. The severe food shortage is taking a heavy toll, especially on children under the age of five years, with some 67,500 children facing acute malnutrition. Crops are failing; communities do not have enough food to eat and cannot produce enough to sell.”[3]

Tropical cyclones and flooding lead to higher incidence of malaria, diarrheal diseases, malnutrition and other diseases which are the leading cause of death for children under 5 years. “More than 75% of deaths before age 5 years in Mozambique are caused by infectious, preventable diseases, with more than 60% attributable to malaria (42·3%).”[4]

While there have been a number of tropical cyclones making landfall in Mozambique, none have been as devastating as the past two, Hurricanes Idai and Kenneth. In comparison, below are the significant tropical cyclones from 1956–2017.

For the first time in recorded history, two strong tropical cyclones made landfall in Mozambique, with their impact far exceeding any other tropical cyclone. “… the first time in recorded history two strong tropical cyclones have hit the country in the same season. The devastation caused by the cyclones could bring the cumulative number of children in affected areas in urgent need of humanitarian assistance…to nearly 1.3 million in Mozambique alone.”

Mozambique has suffered not only from cyclones and flooding, but also from drought in the south of the country where Maputo lies. “At least 126,000 hectares of crops have been affected by drought in the three southern provinces…in the current (2018/19) agricultural season.” [6] As the Earth’s temperatures continue to rise this will continue to be devastating for a population reliant on agriculture.

In summary, Maputo is vulnerable to climate change impacts which adversely affect vulnerable populations including children under 5 years, subsistence farmers and the poor. Extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones, flooding and drought will continue to affect the health of the populations in Maputo as the climate warms.

[1] http://floodlist.com/africa/mozambique-floods-october-2020

[2] https://clubofmozambique.com/news/urban-agriculture-in-maputo-a-model-to-follow-135692/

[3] https://reliefweb.int/report/mozambique/climate-change-leaves-16-million-mozambique-need-urgent-assistance

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4158849/

[5] https://www.unicef.org/mozambique/en/cyclone-idai-and-kenneth

[6] https://allafrica.com/stories/201905170763.html

Global Health | Vulnerable Populations | Climate Change Adaptation | Gender Equity