Madagascar + 2 more

Southern Africa: Floods report 15 Mar 2000

JOHANNESBURG, 15 March (IRIN) - As more rains fell on Wednesday in flood-hit Mozambique, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said more than 2.5 million people have been affected and at least 800 killed in the Southern African region hit by the worst floods in decades.
"The number of deaths is expected to increase once assessments are completed. Damage from the floods is extensive, isolating many areas and displacing populations in Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa," USAID said.

The region was hit by tropical storms Eline and Gloria that swept through Madagascar and moved east through Mozambique and Zimbabwe, with weaker rains and lesser flood damage further afield in Zambia and the arid and drought-prone Botswana and its western neighbour Namibia.


The Limpopo river in the south, is continuing to register slight decreases, although it remains over one metre above the critical level in Combumune. The weather forecast on Wednesday said that the heavy rains that are expected in the central regions of the country will create a slight rise in the levels of the rivers in Combumune district. This may cause localised flooding further north along the Save and Buzi rivers, both of which have registered slight rises in the last two days. The forecast added that should the flow into the Chicamba dam on the Buzi river continue, it might be necessary to make discharges at the weekend.

Food aid

WFP said it has to provide food aid for about 365,000 displaced people who are accommodated in 97 camps spread across the Limpopo and Save river valleys. The Chiqualene camp in the south, said WFP, is the largest with 57,000 internally displaced persons. The agency added that it has 20 food aid monitors who are coordinating the distribution of emergency food rations in the camps.

The agency said it had delivered more than 2,000 mt of food in Mozambique since the beginning of its emergency operations. It said it has used 59 helicopters, 109 boats as well as trucks from its three main logistics bases in the capital, Maputo, Beira and Palmeiras.

The UN damage assessment team, added WFP, maintained regular flights to remote villages in the upper Limpopo river valley that has been cut off since the start of the flooding. The team includes WFP, WHO, UNICEF and Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF).

Water and sanitation

WFP said it is concerned with sanitation in transit camps that are ill-equipped to deal with the large numbers of flood victims.

The Mozambican government's disaster management team, Instituto Nacional de Gestao das Calamidades (INGC) said one in three water supply wells in the southern town of Chokwe are now operational. It said although the whole system will need to be disinfected, the water can be used with chlorine or purification tablets. It added that water is still being distributed by tank to the town.


According to the INGC, the health priority for this week is the vaccination campaigns against measles and meningitis. The government's health department said it would require the support of all trained medical technicians in order to complete this operation.

The cases of cholera and diarrhoea, said the INGC, have increased over the past few weeks with the central Sofala province recording 1,408 cases with six deaths. Maputo City has experienced 402 cholera cases with five deaths, while the number of diarrhoea cases has also increased significantly in the City.


The INGC reported that certain areas in the south and central regions of Mozambique might face the problem of displaced landmines that were washed away by the rains. It said the priority areas are the provinces of Maputo, Gaza, Inhambane, Sofala and Manica.

The INGC added that a four-month emergency programme supported by the UNDP, Handicap International and the Norwegian People's Aid has been drawn up. It said the main components of the programme include: the identification of densely populated areas; the collection of data relating to the possible effects of the floods on landmine location; raising awareness among the affected population and the establishment of teams to identify and destroy displaced landmines.


WFP said vast stretches of Mozambique's main roads were washed away in the floods, with secondary roads submerged and an estimated 2,500 km of tertiary roads damaged.

It said it will help kick-start Mozambique's local economy by initiating food-for-work programmes. "Projects will include the reconstruction of schools and shops, the rebuilding of railways and roads, and most importantly, the planting of new crops," the agency said.

At the same time, a reconstruction conference is planned for April following a preparatory meeting held last week convened by Mozambique's foreign minister Leonardo Simao.


As the wealthy nations grouped under the "Paris Club" gather in France on Wednesday, calls for the cancellation of Mozambique's external debt estimated at US $8.3 billion are gaining momentum. Mozambique owes about US $3.4 billion in bilateral debts to Paris Club members, with France and Italy being the country's largest creditors.

France, which is owed US $472 million, said it was seeking to postpone Mozambique's external debt repayments to allow the flood-ravaged country to allocate resources to the most urgent needs.

The heads of state of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), who met in Maputo on Tuesday to assess the flood damage, called for the cancellation of all Mozambique's foreign debt to enable the county to rebuild its destroyed infrastructure.


WFP said more than US $100 million has been donated from the international community since the beginning of the relief operation. The UN Foundation has announced a US $1 million contribution to be channelled through UN agencies involved in relief operations in Mozambique.

The Bill Gates Foundation announced in the United States this week that it will provide a total of US $1 million to three international organisations to support relief efforts in Mozambique. The grants would be made to the American Red Cross, CARE and Save the Children.


According to the country's disaster management authority, the Conseil national de Securite (CNS) and the UN, the storms that lashed the giant Indian Ocean island 400 km off Mozambique have affected up to 400,000 people, including 10,000 homeless persons. An estimated 12,000 people have been cut off by flooding in remote corners of the island, CNS said.

Cyclone Eline severely hit the east coast of the country on 17 February and passed through the country approximately 80 km north of the capital, Antananarivo. On March 2, tropical storm Gloria crossed through a similar part of Madagascar.

CNS added that districts on the east coast between Vatomandry and Mahanoro suffered severe damage. About 90 percent of cash and food crops were destroyed, 65 percent of houses damaged and 75 percent of health facilities were damaged. It said floodwaters and landslides seriously affected access and movement of food and other commodities within the country, particularly in the west.

Food aid

WFP told IRIN on Wednesday that 40,000 people are in urgent need of food aid, most of whom are in the east, the northeast and the highlands regions, WFP said. "We have already delivered 25,000 mt of food rations in the north of the country and plan to drop off more to cut-off villages in the east of the country in an operation that will last for 15 days," WFP spokesman Wagdi Othman told IRIN. He added that the agency is using a French plane diverted from Mozambique and the agency's Buffalo plane to deliver the food.

At the same time, the NGO Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has reportedly purchased local food for delivery to 1,000 people in Morondava.

Displaced persons

Preliminary assessments by USAID indicated that there are pockets of affected areas that need emergency water and food assistance. It said in Morombe, in the southwestern part of the island, it observed 1,600 displaced persons, including 600 in Morombe town and 560 in the four nearby villages.

One-third of the buildings in the area have beendestroyed and the remaining two-thirds have sustained varying degrees of damage, added USAID. "On the eastern coast, most of the damage appears to be from cyclone Eline and some rehabilitation activities are underway. However, other nearby areas are still flooded and at risk of cholera outbreaks," said USAID.


The government has reported that about 200 people have died as a result of the storms that left about 10,000 people homeless. It also said that 22,000 cases of cholera have been reported up to this month, resulting in 1,300 deaths.

WHO, however, has said that cholera figures are probably under-estimated and expects localised increases in cholera cases due to the flooding. It said some cases have been reported in the western part of the island, including the Morombe area. It added, however, that no cases have been reported in the heavily populated northeast so far.

Non-food aid

USAID said it has up to date provided US $25,000 to CRS for the provision of safe drinking water to affected areas and to clear and rehabilitate important roads. The European Union (EU) has announced a road rehabilitation project and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) recently provided US $200,000 to help fund disaster relief.

The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that blankets are needed for 850 displaced families, as well as soap, water purification equipment and emergency medical kits for 10,000 people for the next three months. It added that 20,000 packages of oral rehydration salts are also needed.


According to the latest UN and government estimates in Zimbabwe, 100 people have died from the floods and 96,000 people have been directly affected. Among those affected are 20,000 internally displaced persons who are accommodated in camps and available local facilities, while as many as 500,000 are indirectly affected.

USAID said urgent assistance is required in assessment of important infrastructural damage and rehabilitation needs. It agreed with earlier UN assessments this week that food aid is not a major problem but it remains concerned about the overall response coordination to the flood disaster.

The flooding has directly affected the southern and eastern provinces of Manicaland, Masvingo, Matebeleland South and the Midlands. Extensive damage to crops and infrastructure were reported in all the four provinces, the majority of whose populations are subsistence farmers.

The Zimbabwean government has identified immediate needs to include access to or rescue of people in isolated areas, the evacuation of populations in vulnerable areas and the provision of immediate relief to displaced people, including food, water, shelter and health care needs.

USAID said it has so far provided an initial US $25,000 through the United States mission in Zimbabwe to support relief activities.


The country's National Disaster Committee has said the northeastern part of Botswana was the worst affected by flooding that has left 73,000 people homeless and damaged secondary roads. The committee added that water and sanitation are major concerns due to contaminated water systems.

A two-man water and sanitation mission is already in the country to assist with a flood assessment and response efforts in collaboration with USAID-Gaborone, USAID said. It added that the mission had started assessments on Tuesday in areas most affected by the floods.


Flooding brought on by heavy rains in Malawi's southern Chikwawa district which started on Saturday, have forced at least 1,500 people to abandon their homes and crops, news reports said on Wednesday.

PANA news agency said the Lalanje River had burst its banks, flooding a number of homes and fields, blocking roads and leaving a number of people stranded on small islands. A report issued by the director of the Meteorological Department, Donald Kamdonyo, said the floods were caused by an unprecedented heavy downpour over the weekend.

Lucius Chikuni, the commissioner for Disaster Preparedness, Relief and Rehabilitation, said he had sent advance warning to the District Assembly in Chikwawa to evacuate people: "The assembly responded fast and ordered people to go to high ground that is why nobody was washed away, except their houses and goats," he was quoted as saying.

A government assessment team has been sent to the area, Chikuni said.


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