July 11, 2019 / 5:05 PM / 8 days ago

United Nations chief calls for more support for cyclone-hit Mozambique

MAPUTO (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Thursday called on the international community to provide more aid to Mozambique, where two cyclones spurred by climate change killed hundreds and wrought widespread destruction earlier this year.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends Lisboa+21 conference in Lisbon, Portugal June 23, 2019. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth struck just six weeks apart, flattened cities and villages and, in the case of Idai, which crashed into Mozambique’s central region in March, prompted devastating floods in one of the worst weather-related disasters to hit the southern hemisphere.

Speaking to reporters after meeting Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi in the capital Maputo, Guterres said the cyclones were a consequence of climate change - a phenomenon Mozambique is on the frontline of but does not contribute to.

“This gives (the country) the right to demand strong solidarity and strong support from the international community,”

he said, noting that appeals for post-cyclone aid have gone underfunded.

An emergency U.N. appeal for Mozambique following Idai received less than half of the $282 million requested, while donors at a pledging conference in the cyclone-hit port-city of Beira raised $1.2 billion for reconstruction - again less than half of the $3.2 billion Mozambique says is required.

Idai, one of the worst storms on record to hit Mozambique, pummelled Beira before moving inland, killing a total of 1,000 people across Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. Kenneth hit further north with winds of up to 280 kph (174 mph), killing around 45 people and reducing rural villages to piles of wood and palm fronds.

It marked the first time two powerful cyclones had struck Mozambique in the same season, destroying homes, infrastructure and crops in areas where many already lived in poverty. Climate change is expected to see the country increasingly exposed to such extreme weather.

The country’s north, where Kenneth hit, is also struggling with a nascent Islamic insurgency, which has seen militants kill over 100 people and which complicated the relief effort in the aftermath of the storm.

Guterres said the United Nations would help Mozambique prevent young people from becoming radicalised, including by making its Counterterrorism and Prevention of Violent Extremism unit available to collaborate with the country.

Reporting by Manuel Mucari; writing by Emma Rumney, Editing by William Maclean

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