Madagascar-Mozambique: Floods update

Report
from IRIN
Published on 10 Mar 2000
JOHANNESBURG, 10 March (IRIN) - As heavy rains in Madagascar and Mozambique hampered humanitarian air operations to varying degrees in both countries on Thursday, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the UN Security Council that the need for "effective" humanitarian assistance around the world had never been greater.
"In all these situations, we must ask ourselves: Are we doing enough? We must strengthen our capacity to bring relief to victims, but we must also devise more effective strategies to prevent humanitarian emergencies from arising in the first place," he said. Within the United Nations, he said he had launched a major effort to develop a system-wide framework for early warning and preventive action.

"The fact is that humanitarian aid does not exist in a vacuum. In some cases, such as in Mozambique today, or with the floods in Venezuela or the earthquake in Turkey last year, we face true natural disasters. In others, however, we confront man-made disasters which are rooted clearly in war and tyranny."

One thing, he said, was clear: "These humanitarian dilemmas have made the global humanitarian mission more important, not less."

Madagascar

A spokesman for Annan added that he was "deeply concerned" over the effects of flooding in Madagascar caused by cyclone Eline last month, and cyclone Gloria - the two storms which later swept through Mozambique.

He said a formal appeal for international assistance for Madagascar would be made in coming days. "The Secretary-General trusts that donors will contribute generously in response to this disaster," the spokesman said.

In the Malagasy capital, Antananarivo, senior UN officials were forced by heavy rains and poor weather conditions on Thursday to postpone an assessment flight over flood-stricken regions in the giant, poverty-stricken island which lies 400 km off the coast of Mozambique. On Friday, WFP said two aircraft chartered from the government had nevertheless started flying to the east and northeast coastal flood zones. Each is capable of carrying 3 mt of rice, beans and sugar.

"I cannot tell you how dire the situation in Madagascar has become," UNICEF Representative, Sergio Soro, told IRIN on Friday. "We are expecting the French helicopter carrier, which was diverted from Mozambique, the Jeanne d'Arc with its six helicopters off the coast on Monday."

According to the UN and the Malagasy government which appealed this week for international humanitarian assistance, over 600,000 people have been affected by the flooding, and over 130 deaths have already been reported. Initial assessments show that more than 12,000 people have been cut off by floodwaters, and a further 10,000 left homeless. The government estimated it would require emergency relief, excluding air transportation costs, estimated at US $3.7 million.

Soro said reports were already coming in of human corpses seen floating about in the floodwaters, along with the carcasses of various of the rare animals unique to Madagascar, such as the island's lemurs.

"The damage to the human and natural environment is incalculable," said Soro who likened the situation to "another Mozambique". "We have a tragedy on our hands. We have a logistical crisis on our hands too because we do not have sufficient transport means to cope with the disaster.

Emergency needs

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said people isolated by flood waters would require minimum rations of 500 grams, per person, per day, for a period of 5 days.

With the areas of Marolambo, Antanamboa, Mamampotsy accessible by air only, total transport costs are estimated at US $298,044 to carry over 6,000 tons of rice, vegetable oil and beans.

Humanitarian officials told IRIN that UN agencies and the government will be revising these needs in the light of ongoing assessments. Taking however into account that the coming harvest is only in June, food aid to the most seriously affected regions is required for at least three months.

Hamadou Salha, WFP Representative in Antananarivo told IRIN: "We started this emergency airlift today, but we only have two aircraft capable of carrying 3 mt each and we have an estimated 400 mt of emergency rations to move. It is a real logistical problem, given that the roads to the worst-hit areas are cut. We really need helicopters urgently."

Non-food items

OCHA said blankets for 850 families, half of them homeless were also urgently required, with soap, water purification equipment, emergency medical kits for 10,000 people for the next three months, as well as 20,000 packages of oral rehydration salts.

OCHA has published a detailed list of the emergency items required. It can be viewed on the internet at http://www.reliefweb.int

Distribution Strategy

OCHA said food items would also be delivered by road from the capital or Toamasina on the northeast coast to main towns not isolated by floodwaters where the government relief commission, the Conseil national de secours (CNS) will establish logistics bases. They hope, road conditions permitting to reach these areas as follows: From Vatomandry serving Mahanoro, Antanamboa, from Antanifotsy serving Marolambo by air Anosibe An'ala, from Ambositra serving also Fandriana and to start distributions from the major west coast port at Morondava to serve the devastated town of Belo-sur-Tsribihina up the west coast.

The CNS is currently responsible for the overall coordination of the operation through its regional and district committees. It said 60 field staff would be required.

Mozambique

Torrential downpours in southern Mozambique disrupted the emergency operation to get relief to tens of thousands of people on Thursday. On Friday, further heavy storms were forecast for the southern provinces of Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane. Central and northern provinces were expected to experience light rain. The rains were only expected to start weakening again on Sunday.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the UN Security Council it remained clear that Mozambique presented a "most urgent" case of need.

"Even as the assistance in some places has been too little, too late, I am pleased that the council is addressing the plight of the people of Mozambique, and that the overall response has been very generous," he said.

In its latest report, the government disaster management authority, the Instituto Nacional de Gestao das Calamidades (INGC) said armed forces from Germany, Britain, France, Belgium and South Africa were providing relief operations in the Limpopo basin. On Thursday, a total of 129.75 mt of food was delivered, and 210 relief personnel were transported to the field to assist with distribution. They evacuated 29 casualties to the second city of Beira.

"It is hoped that the present rainy conditions will not cause further damage to the roads that have just been repaired," said, adding the US Air Force was conducting aerial surveys of the road network on Friday.

Food

It said a clear strategy on whether or not to feed people returning to still flooded areas, especially Chokwe in the Limpopo valley was required. "Local authorities in Chokwe have prohibited the return of people to Chokwe," it said. But the government has said those returning cannot be left without assistance.

"A public information campaign explaining the risks of returning at this stage might be a better way of discouraging people from going home," it said.

WFP was pre-positioning food in the Zambeze-Chinde River delta area as a contingency against possible flooding in that area. They are also finalising a distribution plan for 100,000 pots, pans and other cooking utensils in camps and among other affected populations.

Health

The INGC said the need for coordination had still been formulated.

In the past nine days, a total of 5,176 people have been treated at the Chacalane health post near Chokwe in southern Mozambique. These included 3,214 cases of malaria, 14 cases of dysentery, and 41 births. A few cases of acute malnutrition and dehydration among children under five have been registered. At present, it added, there are adequate stocks of medicines. However, the health staff appear to be extremely tired and overworked.

At Chicambane hospital, ten blood transfusions have been performed on children seriously ill with malaria. "These have been done using unscreened blood, in an area where there are high HIV levels. The hospital staff have the skills and laboratory equipment to screen blood, however they do not have the reagent and other supplies needed for blood testing," the INGC report said.

Water and sanitation

This weekend an NGO team will travel to Govuro, Mabote, Pande, Nova Mambone and Save to carry out evaluations of local water supplies. They hope to examine around 63 wells and boreholes.

Shelter and non-food assistance

The INGC has established a list of 87 accommodation centres around the country. It said plans were underway to assess their stocks and most important requirements.

At Chacalane Camp, outside Chokwe, which houses over 30,000 people, the INGC said "water supplies are sufficient, though the lack of logistical capacity to distribute food (adequate stocks there) is beginning to antagonise the population." UNICEF and WFP are distributing BP5 High-Energy Biscuits through women's groups to all children under five and to pregnant women.

"Positive developments include the spontaneous reunification of 58 unaccompanied children with their families. One girl and 51 boys still remain separated from their parents," it said.

The most urgent need was for tents or plastic sheeting for those without shelter. A generator to allow the camp administrators to work at night was also required.

Logistics

On Thursday, the US Coast Guard started to assist with the coordination of boat operations in the Joint Logistics Operations Centre (JLOC).

Emergency casualty evacuation facilities were now on permanent standby in Maputo and Beira.

Resettlement and rehabilitation

The Government's Technical Emergency Council has highlighted the need for the issue of education to be addressed. The INGC said "very little" information on the damage to schools, or the effect of the floods on teachers and pupils has been collected.

"The immediate and longer-term needs of the education sector need to be investigated as soon as possible," it said.

[ENDS]

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