Botswana + 2 more

Southern Africa: Regional floods update

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JOHANNESBURG, 16 February (IRIN) - Officials in Mozambique, Botswana and Swaziland said on Wednesday they were growing increasingly concerned at the humanitarian impact of widespread flooding which has destroyed homes, severed road and rail links and left many thousands of people homeless in the three nations. Access to stranded flood victims remained a major problem, while health authorities said they feared outbreaks of water-borne diseases.
Mozambique

In Mozambique, the country worst-hit in nearly two weeks of heavy rains and floods, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report on Tuesday that current estimates put the number of flood victims in the southern provinces of Maputo and Gaza at some 200,000 people.

The OCHA report said the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team in Mozambique had held meetings with the government, the UN Disaster Management Team, donors and NGOs. Cholera and malaria were cited as key concerns. The ministry of health and Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) are developing a cholera prevention plan. UNICEF has been coordinating a water and sanitation programme with MSF, the Mozambique Red Cross and Oxfam.

As rain continued to fall in Maputo Province, access to flood-stricken areas by road was difficult, while the northern sector of the province remained cut off, the report said. In the capital, Maputo, some 4,000 people are being sheltered in four schools, while another 4,000 people have been transferred from schools to a factory so that pupils can resume classes. The local municipality said it urgently needed 400 tents, 40 mobile latrines, food, milk, clothing, blankets, construction materials and generators.

The humanitarian community was also providing assistance to an estimated 5,000 people in the town of Matola, 25 km west of Maputo. But in rural Matola, it said 80,000 people in isolated areas were in urgent need of assistance. The town of Sabie, just 20 km from the South African border, which has a population of 9,000, had to be evacuated because of rising water levels.

The OCHA report also said vast areas of Gaza Province were flooded. "Officials have warned that more floodwaters are flowing down the Limpopo and are threatening the regional capital, Xai-Xai," it said. "Xai-Xai airport is already under water and the road northwards is cut. Evacuating people by helicopter is a priority. Some 4,500 people are stranded without food, shelter or water around the towns of Chokwe and Macarratane." It said WFP was planning to airlift supplies to them.

It said that although water levels in the Save River further north in Inhambane Province were receding, 300 families were in need of assistance.

In Sofala, continued flooding of the Buzi River was hindering access to areas south of the country's second city, Beira, where 19,000 people were in need of help. Six accommodation centres for flood victims had been established.

"In Buzi district, it is estimated that 50 percent of planted maize crops, 80 percent of rice and 40 percent of sorghum crops were washed away," the report said. WFP had delivered 80 mt of maize and 13 mt of pulses for Buzi district. A further 25 mt of maize and 5 mt of pulses were sent to Machanga district.

Botswana

Five people have been killed in Botswana's eastern districts and more than 5,725 houses damaged over the past two weeks following heavy rains, Dineo Mogoe, the director of Botswana's Disaster Preparedness Management Committee told IRIN on Wednesday.

According to media reports, one person drowned, while the others died when their mud homes collapsed.

Mogoe said infrastructure damage in the heavily populated districts was also widespread, caused by overflowing rivers and dams which damaged bridges and flooded the roads. She said although President Festus Mogae had not declared the areas disaster zones, he had appealed to the international community to provide tents to accommodate families whose houses had been destroyed.

The capital, Gaborone, was also isolated from the rest of the country because its road and rail links had been severed by floodwaters.

Mogoe told IRIN: "Some of the roads have been reopened after the water subsided, while work on repairing damaged bridges is underway following the easing of the rains over the last 48 hours. The situation is still under control, which rules out the necessity to declare those areas as disaster zones."

At the same time, an official of Botswana Railways confirmed to IRIN that the country's internal rail link was disrupted after bridges were damaged. "Rail transport from the north to the south of the country was stopped last week after damage to the tracks caused by flooding and collapsing bridges," the official told IRIN. She said engineers had repaired part of the tracks and allowing for the resumption of limited traffic.

Swaziland

The response so far

South Africa has allocated four helicopters now carrying out rescue and distribution operations in Mozambique, where national and international NGOs have set a coordination body called LINK. UNICEF has launched an appeal for US $1.2 million to address Mozambique's health, water and sanitation needs.

The International Federation of Red cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an appeal for US $1.71 million to assist some 10,000 flood victims in Mozambique and Botswana for the next 6 months.

Italy and Norway have provided a range of non-food items scheduled for delivery in Mozambique on Friday from an OCHA warehouse in Pisa, Italy.

"OCHA is prepared to serve as a channel for cash contributions for the immediate relief needs. Funds channelled through OCHA will be spent in coordination with the relevant organisations of the UN system and OCHA will provide written confirmation of their use," the OCHA report said. "Funds should be transferred to OCHA Account No. CO-590.160.1 SWIFT-code SBC0CHGG12A - at the UBS AG, PO Box 2770, CH-1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland, with reference: OCHA Mozambique - Floods 2000."

A UNICEF cargo flight with 40 tons of emergency medical supplies was scheduled to arrive in Maputo on Wednesday from Europe. UNICEF said the supplies included drugs and equipment to treat dysentery, cholera and severe malaria along with 500,000 sachets of oral rehydration salts. "It is expected that the Ministry of Health will distribute the supplies in Maputo city, Maputo province and in Gaza province over the next days," a UNICEF statement said.

Under an international emergency appeal for Mozambique, UNICEF had started receiving funding commitments from the governments of Norway, United Kingdom and Switzerland.

[ENDS]

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