How to save Mozambique from disasters

Meet Titus Kuuyuor, Chief Technical Advisor Disaster Risk Reduction/Climate Change Adaptation, UNDP Mozambique

Disasters in Mozambique are mainly climate-related — floods, droughts, cyclones and erosion. Providing access to water is crucial for keeping locals from falling into poverty.

What’s your job at UNDP?

I advise the government of Mozambique on how to manage the risks of disasters, and on how to adapt to the effects of climate change.

How does your work change the lives of people in Mozambique?

People in Mozambique are feeling the impacts of climate change. Natural disasters such as droughts, floods and cyclones are hitting the country hard. However, communities are not prepared for the repercussions. Many locals depend on the environment for their daily needs and disasters increase the risk of them falling into poverty. Through my work, I help to educate communities about climate change and its impacts, as well as about disaster risks and preparation. My job is also critical to strengthen coordination and investment between UNDP, the government and other partners. All of these factors ultimately reduce poverty in rural Mozambique.

Tell us about people you met and why their particular story had an impact on you?

Water resources are often scarce in Mozambique and many locals have to spend hours fetching water every day.

In 2015, flash floods hit Nampula Province in Northern Mozambique. Thousands of families were affected, houses were destroyed, and infrastructure such as roads, railways, and bridges were damaged. During natural disasters, water sources are often contaminated and it’s not safe to drink from them. That’s why we helped to build several boreholes to make access to clean water safe and more convenient for villagers.

Two months later, I visited one of the communities we supported in Mossuril. Many people came to tell me how the boreholes have made a positive impact on their lives. Girls can now go to school on time just like their male classmates, instead of spending long hours fetching water. In the past, women were often sexually harassed on their long journey to collect water, but now that’s changed for many of them. In addition, the improved water supply makes gardening during the dry season possible and prevents animals from being stolen when looking for water far away from its owners. All of this boosts the locals’ income, which can then be used to pay for school fees and medical bills.

What are the major disaster risks in your country and what would help reduce these risks?

Disasters increase the risk of falling into poverty for those who depend on natural resources for survival.

Major disasters in Mozambique are mainly climate-related — floods, droughts, cyclones and erosion. There are a number of actions that can help reduce these risks. First, reviewing current policies and taking disasters into consideration. For example, creating construction codes (that’s rules and regulations on how to design infrastructure etc.) that make buildings withstand disasters. Second, building extensive early-warning and early-action systems that guide communities in preparing for disasters, and reduce their impact overall. Third, getting the private sector involved. Disasters can have a huge impact on the private sector and can derail years of profit. That’s why investment in disaster risk reduction is just as important for the private sector as it is for governments.

What’s the most inspiring thing you have witnessed at work?

Young people can be agents of change when it comes to protecting communities from disasters in the future.

Children becoming agents of change. In 2009, I worked on a UNDP programme in the Maldives that helped the government to integrate lessons on disaster and climate change into the local school curricula. Many of the students had seen the destructive power of disasters with their own eyes. When I talked to them and listened to their ideas and concerns one thing became clear: They want to make a difference. They passionately discussed how they would protect the coral, plant more trees and make buildings safer once they’re in decision-making positions. The students all agreed that it was very important to educate people about these issues from a young age on. Their energy and enthusiasm was very inspiring and knowing that this generation will be in charge gives me hope. Hope that families in disaster prone regions will have a brighter future. Hope that we’ll find solutions for many of today’s problems.

By 2030, I want to live in a world… where people around the world are resilient to the impact of disasters and climate change, and where every single person— regardless of gender, race, religion, sexuality — is welcome and can move freely without fears.