Two days before a large snowstorm hits an American city, supermarkets are often overrun with customers purchasing items to help them prepare for the storm. Millions of Americans learn about incoming dangerous weather events through mobile phone weather apps, weather websites, radios, and televisions. But in many developing countries, where access to the Internet is severely limited and people cannot afford radios or televisions, people are unprepared when extreme weather hits.
Mozambique is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. With more than 1,600 miles of coastline and 60 percent of the population living in coastal communities, cyclones and floods consistently cause extensive damage. Cyclones can bring winds of up to 165 miles per hour and heavy rainfall. Between 1956 and 2008, Mozambique experienced 13 tropical cyclones and 20 floods. Damages caused by flooding are expected to cost Mozambique approximately $45 million by 2030. Furthermore, these disasters resulted in more than 2,000 deaths and displaced more than 12 million people.
To help citizens prepare for these dangerous storms, USAID’s Mozambique Coastal City Adaptation Project (CCAP), implemented by Chemonics, has launched a new mobile-based service in Mozambique called 3-2-1. The 3-2-1 Service offers any citizen with a mobile phone free access to pertinent weather information through SMS or calls, providing them with the information they need to take precautionary steps to safeguard against impending weather events.
To receive a storm warning, citizens use a mobile phone (either a basic phone or a smart phone) to dial 3-2-1, toll free, at any time of day. Callers hear a message in one of three local languages — Portuguese, Changana, or Macua — that guides them to a menu of topics with weather information. Messages include information such as timing for a cyclone or storm, areas of potential flooding, and suggested ways to protect individuals and property.