In Mozambique, a low-cost, SMS-based early warning system is empowering community members to prepare for and respond to natural disasters.
In Mozambique, saving lives can be as simple as sending a text.
Although most of the country’s population lives in coastal cities, which are vulnerable to natural disasters like tropical storms and cyclones, residents sometimes lack access to early-warning information on approaching storms or potential flooding zones. Because of this lack of information, they are caught off guard and don’t have time to safeguard their homes or seek shelter when storms come. In addition, residents don’t always have an easy way to report real-time information to the National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC) to describe damage in their neighborhoods, confirm injuries and deaths, or request basic supplies and shelter.
Recognizing this challenge, USAID launched the Coastal City Adaptation Project (CCAP), implemented by Chemonics International, to ensure that coastal cities can effectively prepare for and respond to natural disasters. Using an early-warning system designed by Human Network International — which complements INGC’s early-warning system by adding a data-collection component — community networks share pre-disaster warning messages and collect real-time post-disaster data using DataWinners, a platform developed by Human Network International. DataWinners complements INGC’s early-warning system by adding a data collection component. It is the first two-way warning system in Mozambique to use cell phones, making it a low-cost and innovative solution for community members who have access to cell phones.
The system is coming just in time for Pemba and Quelimane, CCAP’s two focal cities. Both have been hit hard with heavy rains and flooding in the past years.
“Last March, we experienced some of the heaviest rains we’ve seen in 40 years,” said Elizete Manuel, delegate for the INGC in Pemba. “It destroyed people’s homes. It made life very difficult. People are eager to act on early-warning information because they know the consequences if they don’t.”