Madagascar + 1 more

Southern Africa: Floods report 16 Mar 2000

JOHANNESBURG, 16 March (IRIN) - As major international humanitarian relief continued to alleviate the plight of hundreds of thousands of cyclone flood victims in Mozambique and Madagascar, UN officials told IRIN on Thursday they were starting to gradually switch the focus from the acute emergency phase to longer term rehabilitation and reconstruction.
In Nairobi, Kenya, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's outgoing Special Humanitarian Envoy to Mozambique, Ross Mountain, on Thursday praised the rapid international response to the crisis. He also lauded the government's cooperation with the international humanitarian community.

In Paris, the Paris Club of creditor nations agreed to suspend, rather than cancel Mozambique's debt repayments. Mozambique's Foreign Minister, Leonardo Simao, said the decision fell short of regional demands that the debt be cancelled. Although he called it a step in the right direction, he said he hoped all bilateral and multilateral debt would be cancelled later this year so that the country can rebuild its infrastructure. Detailed IRIN report on Mountain's remarks and the debt alleviation can be viewed at


In the giant Indian Ocean island of Madagascar 400 km east of Mozambique, where assessments are showing a plight worse that initially believed with 40,000 homeless and in dire need, a French Air Force cargo plane parachuted several seven-tonne loads of WFP rice, beans and sugar to people in the isolated east coast resort town of Vatomandry on Thursday afternoon.

WFP spokeswoman Heather Hill, speaking to IRIN from the capital Antananrivo, said the French aircraft would make further drops to Vatomandry, some 180 km east of Antananrivo because it was still currently inaccessible by road after taking the full force of cyclone Eline last month.

The government relief commission, the Conseil national de securite (CNS) reported that 11,242 people in Vatomandry had lost their homes. There were also reports that the strength of the cyclone had been such that it even uprooted fruit trees. "We will send lorries to the region as soon as the road is rendered usable again," Hill said.

Appeal for aircraft

Hill said WFP is appealing to the international community for two helicopters and a 10-seater aircraft to assist with emergency relief operations. "Our own aircraft, which we diverted from Mozambique for a few days, is checking the air field at Vatomandry to see whether we cannot deliver rice. It is capable of taking in loads of 7 mt," she said.

She characterised the Madagascar crisis as particularly complicated because the 400,000 people affected by the floods lived in widely scattered, remote areas of the country. "It is difficult to get to some of these places and many of them have been cut off. You cannot do it all at once.


To date, WFP said it had delivered 92 mt of emergency relief food.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and WFP planned to verify reports by local agriculture authorities that 20 to 50 percent of the staple rice crop in the southeast of Madagascar had been destroyed by the floods.

UN officials said that people reached by relief teams have cited food as their main concern.

"This is a situation that doesn't bode well for long-term food security. In addition to looking at immediate needs of cyclone victims, we have to look ahead at how the population is going to cope with a reduced rice crop and what international community can do to help them," Hill told IRIN.


According to current figures, 384 people died of cholera during February in a toll representing a 39 percent increase in an epidemic which had claimed 1,300 deaths before the floods. Soro was concerned that this toll would increase.

Responding to the crisis

"In an emergency of this kind, there is always someone who says it is too slow, but the humanitarian community is in there already delivering relief," she said. "Fortunately because we have a development programme in Madagascar, when the crisis hit we already had 900 mt of food in country which we were able to start distributing immediately."

Dr Sergio Soro, the UNICEF Representative in Madagascar and Haladou Salha, the WFP director both told IRIN this week that Madagascar, in the four weeks since cyclone Eline hit the island followed earlier this month by cyclone Gloria, had not benefited from as much attention of the world's press as had Mozambique. "Yet we have a dramatic crisis here," Soro said.


Two days of rains in Mozambique this week hampered relief operations, and the main road from the second city of Beira to the small town of Save was cut, relief officials said.

River water levels

In southern Mozambique, at Ressano Garcia, the Incomati dropped 0.87m, and is now below the alert level. In Magude the river is stabilising, though it remains 0.88m above the alert level, the government relief commission, the Instituto nacional de Gestao das Calamidades (INGC) said in its latest report.

"The waters of the Limpopo River continue to drop, although a slight rise is expected over the next few days due to the heavy rains in South Africa," it said.

Heavy rainfall was been recorded in the basins of the Save, Buzi and Pungoe river basins. Slight flooding has been reported in Zumbo, along the Zambeze River. The water levels in Tete Province were dropping steadily.

Relief action

The Joint Air Operations transported 120.2 mt of relief on Wednesday. The Dominican Republic has sent a team of 24 army personnel to assist with the relief operations in Chokwe, in southern Mozambique.

In the Beira district, a team was dispatched from Beira yesterday, with the intention of reaching Mambone with tents and a generator for the hospital there. However, poor weather conditions prevented them reaching the town. A joint team comprising firemen and Portuguese soldiers managed to distribute 3,800 kg of food to 3,900 people along the Save River.

The INGC said a new camp is to be opened at Maluvane, near Mambone road to alleviate crowding at Pande camp which currently accommodates 1,076 people. A team from CARE travelled on Thursday to the area to start a food-for-work programme.


Deliveries of food were disrupted in the Save region on Wednesday after recent rains cut the road from Beira off at various points. As a result of this, only 70 tons of food were delivered mostly in the Limpopo Valley.

A British Naval vessel is to be pre-positioned near the mouth of the Save River, to facilitate helicopter transfer of relief items to Machanga. This is currently being loaded with food and non-food supplies.


DFID, Britain's Department for International Development, said it was considering proposals from local and international NGOs for assistance with seed and tool deliveries for the farming sector. "Some British-based NGOs will also be receiving funds from a flood appeal made to the British Public. Local NGOs may therefore wish to contact these British NGOs to see if they can co-fund seeds and tools proposals," the report said. It said coordination in the sector was improving.


The government health authorities said all relief organisations in the health sector must be registered with them by the end of Thursday and that failure to do so would result in expulsion from the country. So far, it had approved 19 NGOs.

In the capital Maputo, the health authority said visits to five accommodation centres in had raised their concern about the existing health and sanitation conditions. In all the centres visited, there was an insufficient supply of food (only cereals), a lack of latrines, and a lack of hygienic materials.


The INGC reported that a large amount of donated humanitarian aid will be arriving in the country over the next few days.

"INGC will be responsible for receiving and storing this," the report said. "However these goods have not yet been allocated. NGOs wishing to inquire about what the loads contain and how to receive certain items, should contact the INGC Information Centre.


WFP, the lead agency, was working to implement joint telecommunications plans. It said Macia in the south now had e-mail, and telephone links. Beira's network is being strengthened and existing network's are being shared with various partners.


IRIN-SA - Tel: +2711 880 4633
Fax: +2711 880 1421

[This item is delivered in the English service of the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information, free subscriptions, or to change your keywords, contact e-mail: or Web: . If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.]

Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2000