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Mozambique floods situation report 14 Mar 2000

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Accumulation of rainfall from February 4-7 in Maputo Province reached 17.9 inches -- compared to 23.4 inches from September 1998 to January 1999.
Although rainfall figures have not been reported for Gaza Province, previous reports described parts of Gaza as resembling a sea, as a series of flood waves, some reaching up to 86 feet high, descended upon the province from the Limpopo River.

As of March 1, all major rivers in southern Mozambique remain flooded but waters are slowly receding. The Limpopo River, source of the worst flooding, peaked on February 26 at 36 feet. As of March 3, it had fallen to 23 feet.

Some key roads in Mozambique have been re-opened and aid is now being distributed by truck. Many main roads in rural areas remain submerged.

Eight hundred thousand to 1 million people have lost their homes and are in need of immediate aid, including an estimated 180,000 children under five years old. According to the Government of Mozambique, the current death toll is 492 people.

An estimated 250,000 people in Mozambique are seeking shelter in 74 camps. In Maputo Province, 30,000 flood victims are being housed in approximately 12 shelters. In the capital city, Maputo, approximately 4,000 displaced people are seeking shelter in four schools and a factory. The largest refugee camp is in Chaquelane, about 100 miles northeast of Maputo, where an estimated 35,000 people are reported to be seeking safety and shelter. Most camps are in desperate need of necessities including food and water. Malaria is rampant in most. In Chaquelane, at least 300 malaria cases are seen daily.

Massive amounts of fertile farmland and crops have been destroyed in the provinces of Maputo, Gaza, and Inhambane. Government authorities estimate that over 247,000 planted acres have been destroyed. Affected crops include maize, beans, rice, sweet potatoes, peanuts, and vegetables. There has also been a substantial loss of cattle. In Gaza alone, 30,000 head of cattle have died. Estimates indicate that 62,600 farming households have been devastated by the flooding.

Over 14,600 people have been rescued by air. Evacuations and rescues in rural areas are on going, particularly north of Chokwe (located in Gaza, about 150 miles north of Maputo) and in many other small villages on the northern side of the Limpopo River. The river burst its banks on February 27, leaving all of Chokwe underwater. South African military pilots were able to rescue over 2,000 people, including 944 children, from Chokwe.

UNICEF reports estimate that 30 to 40 percent of children in parts of Inhambane Province have been separated from their parents. UNICEF is working with the Government to ensure that all unaccompanied children are registered. In the Chaquelane camp, located in Gaza Province, 58 out of 110 unaccompanied children have been reunited with their families.

Since the beginning of the disaster, most of the affected population has had little food or safe drinking water. Cases of severe and moderate malnutrition among children in the affected areas are increasing.

Due to a lack of clean water and sanitation, cases of communicable diseases and outbreaks of malaria, cholera, and dysentery have significantly increased. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that 800,000 people in the region are at risk of cholera and malaria. In one hospital in Maputo Province alone, at least 500 people have malaria symptoms.

Wells and sanitation facilities are underwater and have sustained serious damage in many parts of the country.

So far, a total of 141 schools have been destroyed or are in need of major repair. Numerous hospitals and clinics have sustained major damage and are suffering power failures.

The National De-mining Commission has expressed concern about landmines, which have been dislodged by torrential floods. Since 1980, an estimated 9,000 people have been victims of landmines in Mozambique, according to the United Nations. A million anti-personnel landmines remain in the ground from the country's 16- year civil war, which came to a negotiated end in 1992. In 1996 and 1997, 43 percent of the country's landmine victims were children and women, according to UNICEF.

Cyclones Eline and Connie have also affected neighboring countries, including Botswana, Madagascar, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

In South Africa, it is estimated that floods have taken the lives of 76 people. In Botswana, approximately 98,000 people are displaced or homeless and nine people are reported dead. Botswana's capital, Gaborone, has been cut off from the rest of the country due to collapsed bridges and roads.

In Zimbabwe, the government has estimated that 250,000 people are in urgent need of assistance, 70 are dead, and at least 12 reported to be missing. Three weeks ago, a bus carrying 33 people was swept away by a flood wave that hit the Mudzi River. Crops worth over $67 million have been completely destroyed and over 11,000 heads of cattle have been killed. The government has appealed for $21.2 million in aid, including boats, food, medicine, and tents.

UNICEF is also assisting in an emergency assessment of Madagascar, which was swamped by Cyclone Gloria on March 2. Rescue operations are on going and it has been estimated that 600,000 people are displaced, half of them children. Although floodwaters are receding, landslides have prevented many roads from re-opening.

Cyclones Eline and Gloria killed nearly 150 people in Madagascar. Communications and electricity in the country are almost completely out and only 22 percent of the affected areas have access to health care. The cyclones are likely to increase a prolonged cholera epidemic, threatening thousands more with contracting the water-borne disease.

Cash crops in Madagascar such as coffee, fruit, and rice have been wiped out.

"We are very concerned about the immediate threat of malnutrition," said Dr. Sergio Soro, speaking from the UNICEF office in Antananarivo. "If our assessments prove valid across the island, the loss of the rice crop could be devastating; it could mean serious malnutrition for hundreds of thousands of people. Malnutrition will make people more vulnerable to illness, exacerbating serious health problems. And the loss of cash crops like bananas and coffee takes away people's livelihood at the same time. The floods here have created a spiral of disaster. It's just awful."