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Environmental degradation and the effects of climate change in Mozambique

© UNICEF Mozambique
In the high-sea-level-rise scenario presented in a study by the INGC, present-day Beira would become an island by the end of the century.

MAPUTO, Mozambique, 11 May 2011 – A comprehensive report conducted by the National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC) paints a sobering picture of the environmental conditions that are anticipated if current climatic trends continue. Data collected over the course of several decades were used to generate predictions by applying seven different climate change models. Increases in average temperatures, maximum temperatures and duration of heat waves have already been recorded throughout the country, and this trend is expected to continue. Mean temperatures are predicted to rise by 1.8 to 3.2 degrees by 2075. Rainfall will also decline by two to nine per cent, especially between November and May, the key growing season.

According to the forthcoming 2010 ‘Child Poverty and Disparities Study’, data regarding rainfall suggest that the country is already seeing increasing delays in the start of the rainy season. The climate change models predict that precipitation will become even less predictable in the next several decades, with increased rainfall expected in most of the country from December to May, surpassed by even greater increases in evaporation during the rest of the year.

Rising sea levels present yet another challenge. The lack of reliable data in the past makes it difficult to know precisely to what extent sea level rise has already affected Mozambique, but the projections discussed in the INGC report show that this particular result of climate change is bound to have serious consequences. Even in a low-sea-level-rise scenario, tropical cyclones will present a greater risk to the coast and will contribute to greater coastal erosion. Urban centers will sustain infrastructure damage due to more frequent flooding, and in a high-sea-level-rise scenario, many ports and homes along the coast would be completely submerged by the end of the century.

Beira, Maputo and Quelimane are all expected to be heavily affected even by low sea level rises; in the high-sea-level-rise scenario, present-day Beira would become an island, while the Maputo port, train station and other areas would disappear under water.

Many environment-related hazards are predicted to intensify in developing countries as a result of global warming. A 2009 Lancet Commission report called climate change ‘the biggest global health threat of the 21st century’. In Mozambique, one of the predicted consequences of increasing temperatures and changes in precipitation noted in the INGC study is an increase in the range and seasonality of vector-borne diseases, including malaria and sleeping sickness. Other diseases that may increase in Mozambique as a result of climate change include chikungunya fever, meningococcal meningitis, cholera and other diarrheas, and rodent-borne diseases. Increasing temperatures and the gradual loss of shade trees may also increase the effect of heat stress on children. Because children (and the elderly) sweat less and have higher surface area to body mass ratios than adults, they tend to suffer greater health effects as a result of heat stress.

The environment is considered a cross-cutting issue by the Government of Mozambique. However, actions to address climate change, the environment and disaster management have not been sufficiently integrated across the sectors. Insufficient funds have been dedicated to addressing environmental degradation, both by the Government of Mozambique and its partners, possibly due to the difficulty of assessing the long-term return on such investments. Without such investments, however, environmental degradation has the potential to significantly reduce or even reverse progress made in child survival, education and protection. Urgent action is needed to sensitize communities to the need to reduce environmentally destructive practices and ensure that public and private sector initiatives are conducted in an environmentally sustainable manner. Climate change is an issue that must be tackled in cooperation with Mozambique’s regional and international partners.

For more information, please contact:

Arild Drivdal, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email:

Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email:



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