Angola + 5 more

IRIN-SA Weekly Round-up 10 covering the period 4-10 Mar 2000

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for Southern Africa
Tel: +27 11 880 4633
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MOZAMBIQUE: Flood update

As river levels in Mozambique's flood plains began to fall back and road access to stricken areas improved, humanitarian aircraft on Thursday were checking reports that up to 20,000 people were stranded near the lower Limpopo town of Mabalane in southern Mozambique. The government disaster management authority, the Instituto Nacional de Gestao das Calamidades (INGC) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that up to 20,000 people had been found stranded 50 km outside the Gaza Province town of Mabalane.

The INGC said they were mostly located in small settlements beyond the town of Chokwe. "These people desperately need help as so far no assistance has arrived. It should be possible for American helicopters to reach these people," an INGC report said. OCHA said a major effort involving UNICEF, WHO and WFP was underway to bring relief to the people who have reportedly been isolated for the past 25 days.

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MOZAMBIQUE: Chissano raises concern, new WFP appeal

Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano said the number of people affected by the country's devastating floods had reached at least two million, and predicted that the death toll would run into thousands.

In remarks at a news conference on Wednesday, Chissano was quoted as saying: "The floods affected about two million people nationwide of whom about 250,000 are displaced or homeless." At least 212 people had lost their lives and it was likely this toll could reach the thousands.

Meanwhile, WFP the lead agency managing the international relief effort told IRIN on Wednesday that it was preparing a new appeal for Mozambique in which it would be asking the international community for funds in the region of US $27 million. Its initial appeal has already drawn in excess of US $9 million.

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MOZAMBIQUE: Civilian-military cooperation

Soldiers and aid workers do not at first seem natural bedfellows. But in Mozambique, as the international community finally stirs itself to the scale of the country's flood disaster, coordination between the military and humanitarian sector has been surprisingly smooth, sources told IRIN.

Mozambique's skies are increasingly full of helicopters evacuating still stranded people and delivering supplies. There are daily arrivals of more military contingents, relief items, and aid officials. Maputo airport is reportedly struggling to cope with a five-fold increase in takeoffs and landings.

"I think it's evolving much better than people thought, considering the volume of equipment arriving," a senior aid worker said. "There was a lot of anxiety at the beginning that the military wouldn't understand the civilian way of working, but we've been quite lucky."

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MOZAMBIQUE: IRIN Focus on reconstruction

The scourge of landmines laid during Mozambique's 16-year civil war could pose a new threat to returning villagers when the flood waters subside, leaving many of the deadly weapons exposed, unstable or swept to new areas. Demining specialists in Mozambique told IRIN they feared that the hidden devices would make rehabilitation that much harder, and complicate the campaign to rid the country of landmines.

The costs of reconstruction are enormous. Chissano announced that at least US $250 million will be needed to repair infrastructure in a country where the floods have destroyed 10,000 hectares of planted fields, and claimed an estimated 30,000 head of cattle.

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MADAGASCAR: Airlift for flood victims begins

An airlift of WFP emergency food rations for tens of thousands of people trapped by floodwaters in Madagascar got underway on Friday.

WFP spokesman Francis Mwanza told IRIN on Thursday that many of the worst affected areas in the giant Indian ocean island 400 km off the Mozambique coast, swept by cyclone Eline last month and cyclone Gloria last week, were "extremely remote".

UN officials in the Malagasy capital, Antananarivo, told IRIN this week that over 600,000 people had been affected by the floods. Following a government appeal this week for emergency relief, WFP said it would dispatch by helicopter, 25 mt of emergency rations consisting of rice, beans and sugar to some 30,000 people in the east coast town of Mahanoro, one of the areas worst affected by floods. Mwanza said WFP will deliver another 375 mt in the next few days to other areas damaged by the two cyclones. These include the northeast coastal town of Antalaha, Vatomandry further south and the west coast town of Belo-Tsiribihina.

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ZIMBABWE: Flood appeal launched

The Zimbabwe government has made an international appeal for US $21.2 million in emergency assistance for an estimated 25,000 people in urgent need of aid as a result of last month's flooding which swept through four of the country's eight provinces.

The torrential rains at the end of February affected 500,000 people and had a devastating impact on crops and livestock, infrastructure and the environment, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report released at the weekend. An estimated 20,000 people have been displaced after the country's major rivers, including the Limpopo, Save, Mutirikwi and Runde, burst their banks.

"The situation is under control only so far as we are now able to reach the affected people," Local Government Minister John Nkomo and chairman of the ministerial committee on civil disaster told IRIN on Monday. "The larger issue now is of the possible outbreak of diseases like cholera and malaria."

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ZIMBABWE: Media coverage of land issue slammed

The coverage in Zimbabwe of the countrywide invasions of white-owned farms by war veterans has "illustrated the worst failings of the publicly funded media," a report by an independent media watchdog said.

The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) said that both the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and ZIMPAPERS, whose titles include the official 'The Herald' newspaper, "ignored the illegality of the action and largely failed to report the voices of those most affected". They gave prominence instead to "the war veterans, the head of state and other senior government officials." Over the past month some 386 farms have reportedly been invaded.

"None of the publicly funded media examined the lack of a sustainable land redistribution policy as being the root cause of the problem," MMPZ said. "Neither the legality of the invasions nor whether they are a sustainable solution to the land problem were questioned."

ZIMBABWE: Land crisis deepens

Meanwhile, "the pressures that have built-up for land reform have reached a boiling point," a political analyst told IRIN. "The veterans are saying no one is listening to us, so we are going to do this to call attention to our plight ... They have a very historical view of injustice and they see the answer as white farmers giving up their land."

For Zimbabwe, struggling to attract foreign investment into an economy already under extreme pressure, the land crisis is going to have "a very negative effect" internationally. The Zimbabwe government has tried to portray the land issue as the fault of Britain, the former colonial power, for refusing to fund a resettlement programme. But, for the donors, the problem has been the lack of transparency in the government's redistribution plans, the analyst told IRIN.

ZIMBABWE: Britain recalls ambassador

Britain on Thursday recalled its Zimbabwe ambassador in protest at customs officials who forcibly opened diplomatic bags destined for the British embassy, media reports said.

The 7 mt shipment was impounded by Zimbabwean officials on Saturday, who argued that they reserved the right to open unusually large "diplomatic" packages. The stalemate continued until Wednesday when Zimbabwe's customs officials forcibly opened the bags and discovered protective screening equipment for communications as well as tools for its installation.

"This is not the act of a civilised country," Britain's Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain reportedly said. "This is a grave breach of the Vienna Convention and Zimbabwe should be in no doubt that this is totally unacceptable behaviour." Hain added that Britain had accordingly decided to recall its ambassador from Harare for consultations.

ANGOLA: Protest march announced

Angola's opposition parties this week planned to do what hitherto would have been almost unthinkable: To stage a mass protest march in Luanda in defiance of a government not noted for its tolerance of dissent.

The demonstration, set for Friday, was in response to the government's 1,600 percent rise in the price of fuel introduced in February. The hike, reportedly in preparation for a future agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has added an extra burden for already impoverished Angolans. In an attempt to ameliorate the effects, the government has offered a pay rise to public workers.

"This is very significant if they allow it to proceed," John Rosha of the South African-based peace group Angola 2000 said of the proposed march. "I think it's a way for people to express their frustration in general with the politico-military situation in the country," he told IRIN on Tuesday.

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ANGOLA: Security situation deteriorates

The security situation in Angola has continued to deteriorate because of increased attacks against villagers, WFP said in its situation report this week.

WFP said that the attacks have been "particularly severe" in the northern Uige Province and in the north and northwestern parts of Malanje in the central highlands. "Insecurity will most probably continue for the rural population, resulting in increased displacements of people," WFP said.

ANGOLA: War victims get humanitarian aid

Meanwhile, WFP said that between 28 February and 5 March it delivered 1,360 mt of food aid and 218 mt of non-food items by air, for hundreds of thousands of displaced people (IDPs). A further 1,264 mt of food was delivered by road.

In the central Bie Province the deterioration of the runway at Kuito airport and its closure over weekends has continued to limit the number of cargo flights. In its latest update, WFP said that it was organising 10 daily flights to deliver 2,900 mt of food to Kuito during March, "thus covering 100 percent of the projected needs for March".

In Huambo Province also in the central highlands, WFP said IDP's have been "pouring" into the provincial capital. WFP said that it would start distributing food as soon as the number of people have been confirmed and the registration process finalised. It plans to distribute food to 205,749 people in March.

ANGOLA: De Beers challenged over UNITA diamonds

A new report on Angolan sanctions has called on the diamond giant De Beers to come clean on whether it holds UNITA rebel diamonds in its stockpile.

According to the report by London-based Action for Southern Africa (ACSA), despite De Beers commitment to UN sanctions on UNITA diamonds and an 'ethical' pledge made last month that its gems are 'rebel-free', it made record sales last year from its stockpile which could include UNITA stones.

"All the emphasis in their ethical statements has been on the origin of present purchases - which bypasses the critical issue of the origins of diamonds included in (post-sanctions) sales and whether UNITA-origin stones could have been sold from the stockpile given De Beers past buying of UNITA-origin diamonds via other traders," the report released this week said. "It is not clear whether part of last year's record profits come from such tainted sources."

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ZAMBIA: Villagers flee border area

About 3,500 villagers have fled their homes in Zambia's Northwestern Province, which borders Angola, following attacks by suspected UNITA rebels.

A UNICEF spokesman in Lusaka told IRIN on Friday that the group were in the Chavuma area, just south of the Angola-Zambia border. "It is a very miserable situation," the spokesman said. "These people have had their cattle and other household items stolen."

He said that WFP was preparing an "intervention" into the area, and that a coordination meeting between the various UN agencies and the government, would take place on Wednesday. Meanwhile, media reports said on Friday that Zambian troops had been "urgently" deployed to the border with Angola. Zambia's Defence Minister, Chitalu Sampa was quoted as saying that the government "had no alternative but to deploy regular army units" to the border area.

ZAMBIA: Flood assessment underway

WFP has sent an assessment team to southeastern Zambia to investigate reports of possible flooding after spill gates at Kariba Dam were opened 10 days ago.

Zambian media reports on Wednesday said flooding had killed hundreds of livestock and washed away maize fields and other crops. Reports also said that pumpkin and groundnut crops along the banks of the lower Zambezi river were rotting under water.

Earlier this week, UNICEF spokesman, Victor Chinyama told IRIN that maize fields along the river banks in the Zambezi valley had been destroyed. He said that an estimated 140 households had been affected by the rising water levels.

MALAWI: Media manipulation alleged

The run-up to Malawi's June 1999 elections was marked by serious manipulation of the media by the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) of President Bakili Muluzi, the press freedom monitoring group Article 19 has alleged.

According to Article 19, part of the disinformation campaign related to a so-called Voter Action Poll published in all government-owned and pro-UDF media last February claiming huge support for Maluzi. It also involved fabricated international news stories endorsing the ruling party, and reports in the government media alleging the opposition was planning armed resistance.

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Johannesburg, 17:00 gmt


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