The World Food Programme (WFP) is providing life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable people living in resettlement centres in Sofala Province, one of the regions devastated by Cyclone Idai in March 2019.
Supporting the Mozambican Government in fighting food insecurity amid the coronavirus pandemic, WFP is providing assistance through value vouchers worth US$40 per household. These can be redeemed by people to buy the foods they please, as well as hygiene, items at locally contracted shops.
The first voucher distributions in Buzi District reached 1,941 families in the resettlement centre of Masquil Alto 1 — 54,375 people are being targeted by WFP in five districts in the province.
“ I used to work in a school, but when this coronavirus problem started, they had to close the school and fired some employees — I was one of them,” says Madalena Gonçalves — her husband died last year, and she is now living with her four children in a resettlement centre in Buzi District.
“I used to work with child protection activities,” she says. “When they informed me that I was going to be fired, I came back home, went into my tent and didn’t wanted to leave. I cried the whole day. I have four children. I need to buy them food and I didn’t know how I was going to take care of them anymore.”
‘I took these products today at the shop because I wanted to. It was up to me. I know myself, how my life is, from where I came, where I want to go, better than anyone does’
The impact caused by the pandemic comes in addition to an already high level of food insecurity, in a country highly prone to climate shocks. After two devastating cyclones last year, Mozambique experienced large-scale flooding in February this year. The COVID-19 outbreak demanded a reorganization of WFP food distributions in order to keep assisting the most vulnerable people, ensuring access to nutritious food for the sustainable recovery of family livelihoods.
WFP integrated preventive measures during distributions, introducing social distancing, setting up handwashing stations and giving protective equipment to staff and partners in order to avoid any eventual spreading of the virus. Health professionals from the Provincial Health Directorate also issue up-to-speed messages on prevention.
With support from donors, including the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) — a long-term partner of the agency in Mozambique — WFP switched from in-kind distributions to cash-based transfers (through value vouchers). These empower people with a choice to address their essential needs in local markets, while also helping to boost these markets.
“This kind of assistance is very beautiful,” says Madalena Gonçalves. “I took these products today at the shop because I wanted to. It was up to me. I know myself, how my life is, from where I came, and where I want to go better than anyone does. It’s good to have the autonomy to be able to choose what I want for my family.”
She adds: “Today I picked up 5 litres of vegetable oil, two bags of rice and a half-kilo of washing powder.”
WFP continues to support the Government of Mozambique, adapting its activities to face the ‘new normal’ of the pandemic, ensuring programme interventions are safe while opening up new activities.
“I was very afraid when I started hearing about the coronavirus,” says Madalena. “It was not even fear for me, but for my children. Here in Mozambique there are already many diseases killing people. We have to prevent and continue to live.”
Madalena adds: “I decided to walk from house-to-house here in the resettlement centre, informing neighbours about the virus, sensitising them, and teaching how to wash hands. If a lockdown is imposed in Mozambique people will die at home, not from the coronavirus, but from hunger.”
The people of Mozambique are facing an uncertain future, with the country set to endure increasing exposure to severe shocks, including floods, dry spells, cyclones, and disease.
In response to the pandemic which is expected to push 130 million people into starvation by the end of the year, WFP is moving quickly to reorganize and make its projects more effective, ensuring life-saving assistance continues. “The first reason I cry when I’m going to sleep is that I don’t have a job anymore,” says Madalena. “Now that I have food for my family, it gives me the energy to go and look for a job again.”