NEW REPORT - Climate change reverses progress in people’s access to sanitation in Mozambique

Posted by
Jonathan Chapman
26 August 2022
House surrounded by water, in Quelimane, Mozambique. March 2019. WaterAid/ Arão Valoi
Image: House surrounded by water, in Quelimane, Mozambique. March 2019. WaterAid/ Arão Valoi

Number of people with access to improved sanitation fell from 28% to 19% in last eight years

More frequent cyclones, floods and drought have set back key developments, particularly in rural and poorer urban areas in Mozambique, according to a new study from the leading charity WaterAid published today.

The report documents that climate change is having a devastating impact on decades of progress in people’s access to sanitation in Mozambique as infrastructure and latrines are destroyed during extreme weather events, the study shows. The trend can have a severe impact on people’s health, WaterAid warned.

The report The Impact of Climate on Sanitation in Mozambique comes ahead of Africa Climate week 2022, where African ministers, private sector leaders, development organizations, youth and civil society will meet in Gabon from Aug 29th where they will discuss the impact of climate change on social progress. The climate week is an important stepping-stone towards COP27, which is happening in Egypt in November.

The new study focuses on the provision of sanitation across Mozambique and demonstrates that, for the last twenty years, there had been a slow but steady improvement in the access of the people to sanitation across the country. However, since 2014 that progress has gone into reverse, at least partly due to climate impacts.

The figures show that the number of people using ‘improved sanitation facilities’, which safely separate humans from their waste, had doubled to just over 1 in 4 people (28%) between 2000 and 2014. But since then it has dropped back to under 1 in 5 (19%), largely due to the destruction of infrastructure unable to withstand more regular cyclones and floods. (Source: Inquérito do Orçamento Familiar - Family Budget Survey)

“Parts of Mozambique, especially in the coastal areas, are sliding backwards, and households are reverting to using unsafe toilets”, said Robert Kampala, Regional Director in southern Africa for WaterAid. “This will have detrimental effects on their health and, as a consequence, on their ability to go to school or to work. And if this is happening in Mozambique, it’s happening in other areas of Africa that are impacted by flooding or cyclones as well.”

While the experts are still unable to predict exactly which climate-scenario will play out for Mozambique it is expected that rising temperatures will affect the rainfall patterns. The country is likely to see an increase in both flooding and droughts.

Much of the country lies in the path of tropical cyclones, which are likely to intensify, and will be susceptible to the impacts of sea level rise. Rural areas will also see an increase in extreme weather events with longer dry spells followed by intense rains. (Source: Ministério da Economia e Finanças (MEF) – Direção Nacional de Saúde)

The report notes: ‘In a vulnerable country like Mozambique, far fewer people die from drowning or violent death during a flood or cyclone compared to those that die from waterborne diseases in the aftermath. This [is caused by] interruption of safe water supplies and the pollution of existing water supplies by the viruses and bacteria present in untreated human waste.’

This was the case when Cyclone Idai struck the coastal area around the second city of Beira in 2019 in which at least 1300 people died. Just weeks after Idai, Cyclone Kenneth struck the north of Mozambique and earlier this year the coastline was battered by several tropical storms.

Luisa Joao is just one resident in Beira whose life was turned upside down at the time: “Our latrine was destroyed in Idai. It was made of sheet metal. Now we have just found a way to join sheet metal to sacking to withstand the weather. All the time we are seeing people being given blocks to fix latrines. But us?….. nothing. So rain just fills the area with water which mixes with dirt and goes out into the street.”

Adam Garley, Country Director for WaterAid in Mozambique, said: “More than 65% of the Mozambicans live in rural areas, most of them on less than US $1 dollar a day. (Source: INE Highlights - National Statistical Institute). When storms damage their homes and outbuildings, they have to make repairs as best they can using the cheapest materials which are even more vulnerable to future weather events. It’s trapping them in a vicious cycle of poverty and disease.”

Even in urban areas like the capital Maputo, where access is better, increased flooding events pose health risks for the population, WaterAid said. There is only one waste treatment plant for the whole city and there is evidence that at least 25% of waste which has been safely collected is illegally dumped and ends up being washed into the local environment during flooding events, according to the report.

Senhor Matlombe, 78, from the Maputo suburb of Maxaquene, shares his open-air bathroom with his extended family, including five grandchildren. “We have already had an outbreak during a flood sea- son when it rained for three days and the bathrooms with latrines filled up with water and the resulting dirty waters came into contact with the soil and people. The next week people complained of rashes, burns on the skin, some wells were contaminated and people who drank such water ended up getting serious stomach problems.”

WaterAid’s report urges decision makers to promote climate resilient sanitation systems, with the proper finances and policies in place to ensure sustainable access to sanitation for those on the frontline of the climate crisis. ‘As the frequency and severity of climate events increases, there are certain scenarios that are relatively predictable. Having an articulate and budgeted plan for how to respond can greatly enhance the chances of sanitation being prioritised and the sanitation-related consequences of events, such as flooding, reduced’


For more information, please contact:

In Maputo: Arao Jose Valoi, Communications officer, WaterAid Mozambique [email protected]

For Africa region: Elizabeth Mwambulukutu, East Africa Regional Communication Manager [email protected]

In London: Jonathan Chapman, Senior specialist, global media [email protected]

Notes to Editors:

WaterAid is working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The international not-for-profit organisation works in 28 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 28 million people with clean water and nearly 29 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit our website, follow us on Twitter @WaterAidUK, @WaterAid or @WaterAidPress, or find us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram.

  • 771 million people in the world – one in ten – do not have clean water close to home.[1]
  • 1.7 billion people in the world – more than one in five – do not have a decent toilet of their own.[2]
  • Around 290,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That's more than 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.[3]
  • Every £1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of £4 in increased productivity.[4]
  • Just £15 can provide one person with clean water.[5]
  1. WHO/UNICEF (2021) Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2020. Joint Monitoring Programme. Geneva: World Health Organisation.
  2. WHO/UNICEF (2021) Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2020. Joint Monitoring Programme. Geneva: World Health Organisation.
  3. WaterAid calculations based on: Prüss-Ustün A, et al. (2019). Burden of Disease from Inadequate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Selected Adverse Health Outcomes: An Updated Analysis with a Focus on Low- and Middle-Income Countries. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health. vol 222, no 5, pp 765-777. AND The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (2020) Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. Seattle, WA: University of Washington.
  4. World Health organization (2012) Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage