Period covered: 14 - 21 February, 2000
The severe flooding affecting the southern Africa region has been aggravated by Cyclone Eline which hit the coast of Mozambique on Monday, 21 February. The damage and resulting new needs are now being assessed, while Botswana prepares for the impact of the storm. Rain in the region is expected to continue through Thursday, 24 February.
The Federation launched an appeal on 11 February to assist the Mozambique Red Cross Society (MRCS) and the Botswana Red Cross Society (BRCS) to respond to the urgent needs. Meanwhile, recent reports confirm that Zimbabwe and Swaziland are also increasingly affected, and may require external assistance. The Federation is in the process of assessing conditions in both countries with the National Societies. Based on the results, donors will be informed of action being taken and considered, and whether both countries will be incorporated into this appeal.
Storms considered to be close to cyclone-level force hit the southeastern Africa coast from 4-7 February, producing heavy rains throughout the southern Africa region, causing overflowing rivers and pressure on dams, resulting in widespread flooding in the southern and central parts of Mozambique, Swaziland, and southeastern Botswana. While the process of gathering accurate information to assess the extent of the damage was initially impeded by a lack of access to the area, hundreds of thousands of people have been affected and left homeless. Main road and rail lines have been severed, with widespread damage to other infrastructure. The scale of this disaster called for an immediate major relief response from government and other agencies. In Mozambique and Botswana, the Federation's relief response, together with the Mozambique Red Cross Society (MRCS) and Botswana Red Cross Society (BRCS), forms part of a multi-agency rescue and assistance effort.
Cyclone Eline hit the coast of Mozambique on Monday and Tuesday, February 21 and 22, aggravating an already critical flood situation in that country as well as in other parts of the region. The cyclone is expected to bring rain until at least Thursday 24 February.
In Mozambique, the provinces of Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane. Incomati, Umebluzi and Sabie rivers reached the highest water levels ever recorded in the area. Extensive damage was caused and the floods are the worst for decades. It is estimated by the government and other sources that 300,000 people have been forced to abandon their homes in the three worst-hit provinces, and some 800,000 people are directly affected by the floods country-wide. The death toll has reached 70, but is expected to rise once access is gained to still isolated areas. Roads and bridges have been destroyed and access to people affected by the floods remains very difficult.
A needs assessment is being carried out in Gaza Province by a joint IFRC/Unicef/Oxfam team, and a plan for the distribution of essential supplies will be formulated. The Gaza Province will also be included in the distribution of assistance. While the flooding of the Maputo and Incomati rivers has subsided, the Limpopo valley is still badly affected. Rescue and relief work in all the provinces is severely hampered by ruined roads and bridges preventing access by road.
Maputo City and Province
Approximately 70% of the water supply needs in Maputo have been covered. A large number of the people who were temporarily sheltered in schools were moved, for instance to a former cashew factory. Overcrowding and poor sanitation is heightening health risks. Homeless people in Matola are still living in temporary shelters. There will be a need to establish water supply and sanitation. Access to the districts of Matutuine and Magude is difficult due to damaged roads and bridges.
Preliminary figures indicate that the flooding of the Limpopo valley has affected approximately 60,000 people, while 28,000 hectares have been lost, and 1,609 km of roads have been destroyed. Pools of stagnant water and unsanitary conditions has increased the risk of waterborne diseases. Mosquitoes thrive and the incidence of malaria cases is rising. In the town of Xai Xai, the sanitary conditions are worsening as the ruptured sewage system is contaminating drinking water sources. The airstrip in Xai Xai remains flooded, but an airstrip is available in Chibuto, 80 kms away, and it is now being used to fly in supplies. However, a bridge collapsed on 22 February between Xai Xai and Chokwe, and supplies for Chokwe will now have to be airlifted from Bilene. The lack of access to Chokwe is preventing relief to be delivered to that area.
In Botswana, Cyclone Eline has aggravated flooding in the eastern corridor as well as in the south, central and northern areas of the country, affecting the following districts: Northeast, Tutume sub-district, Selibe-Phikwe, Bobirwa sub-district, Boteti sub-district, Francistown, Serowe, Palapye, Mahalapye, Gabarone, Tlokweng, Southeast, Lobatse, Mabutsane, Kgatleng, Southern, Kgaladi, Kweneng and Leitlhakeng. Although the Northeast and Central districts experienced heavy downpours, east and southern Botswana, where over two thirds of the population is concentrated, were the most affected. The needs assessment jointly carried out by the Government, the Red Cross and Medical Rescue International (an NGO operating in Botswana) has indicated a total of 9,786 houses destroyed with some 65,422 people affected. There have been 8 flood related deaths reported countrywide and some 23 people hospitalised.
Most rivers and dams in the east and southern parts of the country were flooded and overflowing. The Shashe, Tati, Metsemotlhabe, Notwane and Motloutse rivers burst their banks, and the Nywane, Shashe, Letsibogo, Gabarone and Bokaa dams overspilled. Major roads were washed away, drainage systems and culverts damaged, and main bridges rendered impassable. The capital city Gabarone was cut from the rest of the country, as all the main roads linking it to other major centres were impassable following the submergence of all the main bridges.
The Government of Botswana is expected to declare a State of National Disaster following a visit of the President of the country to the affected areas.
Despite the extent of the flooding, major roads linking Gabarone with the north of the country have been reopened, as well as railway lines to the south. All the roads and railway lines linking Botswana and the neighbouring countries have been reopened. Approximately 10,000 people seriously affected by the floods are presently accommodated in schools and churches located in eastern and northern Botswana.
Based on the assessment, the following initial conclusions have been reached:
- Extensive use of pit latrines and septic tanks threatens the water sources in these regions, with Government institutions and schools particularly at risk.
- The threat of flies, rodents will increase as surface water dries. There is a need for a high degree vigilance for diarrhoeal diseases due to contaminated water supplies.
- Monitoring of water quality is necessary in the flood affected areas.
- Health education campaigns will be intensified.
To support the MRCS and BRCS in their rescue and relief efforts, the Federation launched an appeal for CHF 2.8 Million on 11 February, 2000 to deliver assistance to an estimated 10,000 beneficiaries for a period of 6 months. To immediately initiate the emergency response activities, CHF 50,000 was allocated for Botswana and CHF 100,000 for Mozambique from the Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF). Situation Report No. 1 issued on 18 February contained a revised budget reflecting the results of ongoing assessments in Botswana and Mozambique, and the increased needs.
The BRCS has been actively involved from the beginning of the emergency in the areas of health, water and sanitation, needs assessments, volunteer management, fund raising, assisting the drafting of government and UN appeals (technical advice), participating in co-ordination meetings at all levels from the National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC) to district level. Some 34 volunteers supported by key staff were quickly mobilised to carry out initial assessments in the affected areas. BRCS volunteers are presently involved in the distribution of both food and non-food items provided by donors.
The BRCS is focusing on 7 out of 18 most seriously affected districts where the Red Cross branches have sufficient capacity. The remaining districts are currently being assisted by the Government. With the BRCS, the Regional Disaster Preparedness Delegate is emphasising the provision of training in logistics, relief distribution and disaster preparedness on several levels. The need within BRCS, however, for external technical support in areas such as relief coordination, water/sanitation and radio communication still remains.
In the Francistown Red Cross Branch, some 79 families are still housed at the Community Centre under the care of Red Cross. Most volunteers are working alongside local government authorities in carrying out further assessments and assisting in the distribution of relief items.
The BRCS is an active member of the NDPO, and fully participates in the daily emergency co-ordination meetings.
The 500 tents and 3,000 blankets donated by the German Government, through the German Red Cross Society, to Botswana have been delivered to the most affected districts. The BRCS will be responsible for the distribution, while the local government authorities will be responsible for monitoring the utilisation of the relief items.
Responding to the findings of the joint assessment mission and the approaching Cyclone Eline has necessitated a change in the BRCS Plan of Action. The BRCS, supported by the Federation, will not only work in the relief distribution, but also undertake the following longer-term objectives:
- providing basic food and shelter needs to some 10,000 beneficiaries for a period of three months;
- providing emergency first aid services and assisting in the evacuation of the injured;
- informing and disseminating information to vulnerable communities by carrying out mass public health education campaigns to advise on the risk of outbreaks of diarrhoeal diseases;
- providing safe and clean drinking water and improved sanitation to the most affected areas;
- assisting the government in the resettlement of the displaced from flooded areas to safer sites identified by the local government authorities.
Forty eight volunteers have provided assistance at 14 centres to 12,000 people over the past two weeks. The Federation Water and Sanitation trainee has assessed water supplies at the cashew factory which is serving as a home for approximately 4,000 evacuees (a census is pending). A disused bore hole has been identified and will be rehabilitated. Latrines are being constructed by the Federation.
Sixty three volunteers are assisting in 17 centres. A total of 4,820 evacuees have received treatment.
Six volunteer teams (of 4 volunteers each) were airlifted to isolated communities to provide health education to prevent diarrhoea, cholera and malaria. Since then more volunteers have joined them and medicines and chlorine supplies have been replenished. In all, 49 volunteers are working in various localities. MRCS volunteers have also been assisting rescue operations which are still needed in Gaza Province. A joint Red Cross/Oxfam assessment mission is currently in the province. Before progressing to Chokwe, the team visited Chibuto district and identified 5 sites with dislocated people. 12 MRCS volunteers are helping in 5 localities in the district. In Combo, people were still being rescued from tree tops. Based on their findings, the MRCS delegation in Gaza will be purchasing and distributing blankets, soap, clothes, buckets, and eating utensils to 150-200 flood victims in the Koko-Missiva centre in Chibuto. Health conditions in the centre will be improved by providing tents, building latrines and treating malaria and diarrhoea. The traditional shallow wells are being chlorinated. In Chokwe 15 Red Cross volunteers are assisting 2,226 families in five centres. Approximately 19,500 hectares of crops have been estimated to be lost in the district, affecting 33,000 families.
Inhambane, Sofala and Zambezia Provinces
The areas most affected by flooding in Inhambane are Govuro, Inhassoro and Vilanculos. 16 volunteers are involved in fund-raising, and health education to prevent cholera and malaria. In Sofala Province 23 volunteers are working in Buzi district with first aid, chlorination of water, health education and collection of in kind contributions to flood victims. To prepare for Cyclone Eline, the provincial delegations organised volunteers to be on the alert to assist in risk zones.
The International Disaster Relief and Development Cooperation Representative of the Austrian Red Cross due to arrive shortly will assess needs in Inhambane and Sofala provinces. A bilateral delegate from Spanish Red Cross arrived Wednesday, 16 February to carry out an assessment prior to the drafting of a bilateral project. An Icelandic Red Cross Health delegate has also arrived to support the Icelandic (bilateral) health project in Maputo Province, and to support monitoring of the relief operations in Maputo Province. A British Red Cross delegate is also providing support related to relief and coordination assistance, working under the overall supervision of the Federation's Regional Delegation in Harare.
In Mozambique and Botswana, efforts remain focused on rescue, and priority needs are for shelter (tents and blankets), food (basic rations of cereals, pulses, and vegetable oil) water (water purification tablets, and units, water bladder tanks, and water collection tanks), sanitation (temporary mobile toilets, insecticide sprays), and health. The repair and rehabilitation of infrastructure is an urgent government priority as this constraint hampers relief and development efforts. With widespread flooding of arable land, there is an urgent need to provide seeds and agricultural tools so that farmers may undertake replanting in time for the second (and final) harvest and thus sustain themselves.
In Botswana, the capacity of BRCS and the Federation has proven sufficient to support the immediate emergency operation. At the moment the BRCS is the only organisation requested by the NDPO to be responsible for distribution of relief to the affected population. Given the anticipated expansion of the Red Cross intervention into meeting the continued needs of the most vulnerable flood victims, external resources - both material and human - are required.
Technical and material support in order to ensure radio communication (both VHF and HF) is required for the operation. Also, continued monitoring and needs assessments in the northern and south-eastern parts of the country are still required. Public education campaigns to support the operation will be carried out with assistance from government public outreach services towards vulnerable communities. Delegates (relief coordination, water/sanitation, telecommunication) are needed to further support these various elements of the operation for a period of at least three months.
In Mozambique, the flooding has also brought about a dislocation of identified and unidentified landmines, thus increasing danger to the population. Mine clearance was already a huge need, and the MRCS ongoing mine awareness programme will become more essential in the southern provinces. It is expected that urgent assistance will be required in the immediate future to provide shelter, drinking water, sanitation, health education and medical assistance to avoid an explosive rise in the number of cholera cases.
External relations - Government/UN/NGOs/Media
In Mozambique, coordination meetings are being held regularly at least once a day with government authorities and UN organisations, including the visiting OCHA team,. The Federation Representative has briefed the donor community on Red Cross interventions. On Monday 14 February a series of digital photos from a reconnaissance of the flooded area was forwarded to the Federation, to be shared with various PNS. The results have been tremendously successful, underlining the usefulness of being able to share visual assessments electronically with interested parties. The MRCS has had frequent contact with Mozambican media, and mention of Red Cross activities is becoming more frequent. The Federation has been interviewed by radio and TV from Britain, South Africa, Iceland and Denmark. In Botswana, coordination with the Government remains effective. The BRCS is the sole organisation identified by the NDPO to deliver goods to the affected beneficiaries.
Operations Funding and Reporting Department