Malawi + 1 more

Destructive flooding worsens in Mozambique, Malawi

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Situation Report
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Posted
Originally published
Written by Christina Ward, Staff Writer, DisasterRelief.org, with news reports
As torrential rains continue in Mozambique and neighboring Malawi, severe floods are threatening the homes and lives of thousands of families. Forecasts indicate that March will bring further storms and more heavy rain. With river levels already dangerously high, government officials are ordering widespread evacuations, and international humanitarian groups are moving fast to get relief to those who need it.

In Mozambique, flooding is concentrated in several northern and central provinces - mainly Tete, Beira and Zambezia. Nearly 400,000 people have been affected by the disaster so far. According to official figures from the Mozambique government, at least 41 people are dead and 77,000 are displaced from their homes. Those numbers are sure to increase as the flooding continues. Although many people have been moved from their homes to higher ground, it has been difficult to reach all of the victims before the waters rise. Rescue workers have saved some people who climbed onto the rooftops of flooded buildings.

Perhaps fearing that the situation will become as devastating as last year's floods - which killed more than 700 people in Mozambique and left thousands homeless - the government is appealing for international assistance. Humanitarian groups are playing a critical role in the distribution of much-needed supplies.

When a plane carrying relief goods from the German Red Cross and German government arrived in Beira on March 1, disaster leaders there were visibly relieved. Along with meeting physical needs, the distribution of relief supplies can help the psychological needs of this battered population. Many families are still trying to recover from the 2000 floods.

"These goods are desperately needed by communities devastated by floods, and when people see us bringing in these supplies, it gives them hope," said Serge Comeau, a representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Beira. Comeau said the German supplies would be sent directly to Caia, where the Federation has set up a relief operations base.

The Zambezi River and its tributaries are experiencing the most flooding, according to local reports. Quickly rising water is straining the Cahora Bassa, a major dam on the Zambezi, and authorities have been forced to open additional floodgates and release pressure. Each time water is suddenly released through the gates, the powerfully rushing river becomes even more dangerous, and water levels rise even higher.

Residents in Tete city, the capital of Tete province, were some of the first affected by the most recent opening of Cahora Bassa floodgates, on Feb. 27. People began to panic as the wave of water passed through, the Associated Press reported.

"The situation is now alarming," Tomas Mandlate, governor of Tete province, told state radio. "We fear this disaster will be similar to that of 1978." The Zambezi River flooded in early 1978, causing $60 million in damage, in part because of the dam. As water pressure rose, Cahora Bassa Dam officials were forced to open eight floodgates, worsening the flooding but preventing a major dam break. So far this year, there are four floodgates open.

Roads, crops and homes are damaged throughout the flooded Mozambique provinces. Crowded displacement camps are housing local families, as well as some refugees from Malawi.

The Mozambique Red Cross and the International Federation of the Red Cross are distributing "family kits" in the area. Each kit contains one tent, two blankets, mosquito nets, a kitchen set, used clothes and hygiene supplies. About 4,000 family kits have been distributed since the flooding began in late January.

"These goods, part of a disaster preparedness stock set up last October, enabled the Red Cross to react instantly to the crisis and ease the suffering of the affected population," said Mark Wilson, head of the Federation's delegation in Maputo. "However, this is not sufficient to provide an overall solution to the scale of the present disaster." The Federation has launched an appeal for 7.5 million Swiss francs to support emergency relief operations in Mozambique and Malawi.

Flooding in Malawi began in mid-February. Similar to the situation in Mozambique, rivers and lakes are overflowing, destroying many of the homes that stood in low-lying areas. With about 60,000 people homeless, 13 of the country's 27 districts have been declared disaster areas. A total of almost 200,000 people have been affected in recent weeks.

Malawi is a small country with few natural resources. The economy is almost totally reliant on agriculture. This season's flooding has caused extensive damage to crops, livestock and farming tools. More than 250 villages have lost all crop fields.

The Malawi Red Cross is working with the Federation to distribute tents, blankets, plastic sheeting, tarpaulins, cooking pots and kitchen sets, jerry cans, hoes and water purification tablets. In addition to supply distribution, the Red Cross is providing drinking water, basic health care and sanitation facilities - particularly in the worst-affected Lower Shire region.

Malawi is also struggling to cope with thousands of Mozambicans who have flocked into the country in recent weeks, seeking refuge from the flooding in their own country.

In addition to the ongoing relief operations of the International Federation and the local Red Cross societies, the American Red Cross is providing assistance to the flood-affected populations. The American Red Cross has initially committed $50,000 and $25,000 to the Mozambique and Malawi Red Cross, respectively.

In Mozambique, an American Red Cross team was in place before the floods began, working on longer-term relief projects in the region. After responding to last year's severe flooding in Mozambique, the American Red Cross has been working with the Mozambique Red Cross on water sanitation, community-level health education, warehouse repair and disaster preparedness projects. Their efforts are now focused on flood relief, as well. Meanwhile, a team from the American Red Cross International Disaster Response Team has been sent to Malawi to assess critical needs and allocate resources.

As the situation continues to worsen, other international Red Cross societies are also responding to the needs in Mozambique and Malawi, including the German, Norwegian, British and Danish Red Cross.

DisasterRelief.org is a unique partnership between the American Red Cross, IBM and CNN dedicated to providing information about disasters and their relief operations worldwide. The three-year-old website is a leading disaster news source and also serves as a conduit for those wishing to donate to disaster relief operations around the globe through the international Red Cross movement.

American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013.

The American Red Cross is dedicated to helping make families and communities safer at home and around the world. The Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organization that annually provides almost half the nation's blood supply, trains nearly 12 million people in vital life-saving skills, mobilizes relief to victims in more than 60,000 disasters nationwide, provides direct health services to 2.5 million people, assists international disaster and conflict victims in more than 20 countries, and transmits more than 1.4 million emergency messages to members of the Armed Forces and their families. If you would like information on Red Cross services and programs please contact your local Red Cross.

=A9 Copyright 2001, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.

DisasterRelief
DisasterRelief.org is a unique partnership between the American Red Cross, IBM and CNN dedicated to providing information about disasters and their relief operations worldwide. The three-year-old website is a leading disaster news source and also serves as a conduit for those wishing to donate to disaster relief operations around the globe through the international Red Cross movement. American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. The American Red Cross is dedicated to helping make families and communities safer at home and around the world. The Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organization that annually provides almost half the nation's blood supply, trains nearly 12 million people in vital life-saving skills, mobilizes relief to victims in more than 60,000 disasters nationwide, provides direct health services to 2.5 million people, assists international disaster and conflict victims in more than 20 countries, and transmits more than 1.4 million emergency messages to members of the Armed Forces and their families. If you would like information on Red Cross services and programs please contact your local Red Cross. © Copyright, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.