Reporting date: 16 October 2020
Total cases: 10,537
From the Islamist insurgency to Cyclone Idai to the persistent HIV/AIDS epidemic, Mozambique has come up against its fair share of challenges in recent years. Add COVID-19 to the mix and the southern African nation is facing a crisis on all fronts – one that leaves the country’s displaced population more exposed than ever. Find out what Dorcas is doing to extend a safety net around them…
Natural disaster, manmade conflict and now COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic poses a near insurmountable challenge to the people of Mozambique. Tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes due to the escalating conflict in the north; many more have narrowly escaped natural disaster.
Living in congested camps and host communities with few resources to protect themselves, it is these people who remain at greatest risk. The health and socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 have only exacerbated existing problems including denial of the right to information and access to healthcare; and continue to fuel these fragile dynamics. Women in rural and agricultural jobs are disproportionately affected with farming communities once again seeing their livelihoods suffer – a cruel blow after months of rebuilding following the devastating cyclones that hit the country in 2019. Recurrent drought and spot floods – climate change in action – pose another grave threat, leading to high rates of malnutrition in the central and northern provinces.
Despite decisive government measures to prevent the spread of the virus, Mozambique remains the sixth worst hit country in the world. On 4 September, President Filipe Nyusi lifted the three-month-long state of emergency – a move that is seeing everything from religious services to international flights recommence, bracing the most vulnerable for a new wave of infections.
Dorcas is drawing upon its expertise in the field of emergency humanitarian response as well as its strong network of local partners to deliver our adapted programme in Mozambique. Due to the extensive threat posed by COVID-19, we are moving quickly to provide a vital combination of livelihoods and public health support – with an aim to ensure that the progress made in previous responses doesn’t get lost.
Awareness-raising has proven to be an effective measure in previous public health emergencies. We took this learning and adapted our programme activities accordingly. Dorcas staff have held a number of awareness-raising sessions in remote communities where reliable information on the pandemic is hard to come by. Via radio, leaflets and door-to-door visits we have taken our message to the heart of communities in a simple and informative way – helping families identify the various steps they can take to ensure good hand hygiene and shield themselves from infection. We are also distributing hygiene kits among vulnerable households.
These efforts occur alongside our regular water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH) activities. We are working with local partners Shingirirai, ARDES, UDS, ADA and the ACT Alliance to make more funds available so that projects can be adapted and deep cleans or redesigns of public facilities including outdoor water pumps can take place. Our priority since the onset of the crisis is to foster a culture of mutual care and help communities work together to tackle and limit the spread – municipal governments included.
It is absolutely critical that we continue to equip communities with the tools to build back better following extreme weather events. The pandemic has created an unprecedented crisis, yet the threat that climate change increasingly poses must not be forgotten.
To address this, Dorcas has adapted its Farmer Field School programme and PIP (Integrated Farm Planning) approach with respect to physical distancing rules and hygiene protocols. Besides keeping clean at local handwashing stations, farmers meet in groups of no more than ten to test smart-agricultural practices and adopt strategies that benefit the environment, increase crop production and enhance nutritional value.
In light of this new and unprecedented context, we have also added an awareness-raising component to the programme. Participants come together to exchange ideas and plans, just as they did previously, but now they are tasked with identifying challenges posed to the industry as a result of COVID-19. First, the group isolates and predicts problems including fluctuations in the market, issues with transportation or personal business debts before problem-shooting ways in which to mitigate the damage. Many of the farmers have already made changes to their activities – not only helping them sustain their small-scale business but also provide for their families. Others have rounded up the community to tackle the threat head on – taking their concerns to a public forum.
According to Florencio Marerua, Country Director for our Mozambique programme, the simple act of awareness-raising could make the difference between the success and failure of Dorcas’ response effort moving forward. With this in mind, he has devised a six-point plan that outlines his team’s strategy in the next six months:
- Continue to work with partners to prepare COVID-19 prevention materials including face masks
- Work with the different partners to devise new and innovative methods to address the spread of COVID-19 in the communities we serve
- Search for funding opportunities to strengthen our pandemic response based on an inclusive programmatic approach that addresses the multitude impacts of COVID-19 (impact on mental health and wellbeing, the economy etc.)
- Assist the local, district, provincial and, where possible, national government in the provision of resources to address the pandemic such as access to clean water in public spaces including schools and markets. Assistance includes lobbying.
- Accelerate our COVID-19 awareness-raising and sensitization activities across Mozambique taking learnings from the European experience (second wave)
- Engage health experts at all levels for cross-learning and expertise sharing purposes. Continue to work directly with community members to feedback relevant information to the authorities
Dorcas programmes in Mozambique are primarily funded by UNICEF and The Charities Aid Foundation and implemented directly with the support of four local partners. Together we will continue to ensure a rapid and coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic with a distinct focus on the most vulnerable communities.
Follow us on Facebook to track our progress or learn more about the Mozambique office on our dedicated country page.
10 November 2020