Southern Africa: Floods report 28 Mar 2000

Report
from IRIN
Published on 28 Mar 2000
JOHANNESBURG, 28 March (IRIN) - Across southern Africa rains hampered relief efforts in countries devastated by floods brought on by cyclones Eline and Gloria. But road access in Mozambique and Madagascar was steadily improving and humanitarian officials said the reliance on costly air transport was dropping slowly.
WHO has warned that 800,000 people in the region remain at risk of cholera and malaria because of the floods. UNICEF representatives in Mozambique and Madagascar told IRIN they were monitoring the impact of the two diseases closely with NGO partners such as Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF).

In Mozambique, water levels have decreased in the Incomati, Save, Umbuluzi and Maputo river basins since the weekend. But water levels in the Limpopo and Pungwe still remained high. The US defence department said it was reducing air assistance and that it was starting a phased withdrawal from Mozambique this week.

In South Africa, where 100 people have died in the floods, revenues from the country's produce market are expected to decline by 60 percent, according to the US Agency for International Development (USAID). It cited "severe" damage to 8,000 km of provincial roads. Further "significant" damage to South African dams and pipelines would have a negative effect on the South African economy - the biggest in the region.

In Malawi, the latest country hit by floods in southern Africa, government relief officials told IRIN on Tuesday they were still assessing the damage.

MALAWI

Malawi's Department of disaster preparedness, relief and rehabilitation told IRIN on Tuesday that more than 14,000 households in various parts of the country had been flooded in the past two weeks after torrential rains caused rivers to burst their banks.

A departmental official, James Chiusiwa, said flood waters in central Malawi had swept away the mud homes and food gardens of an estimated 70,000 people.

"A bridge in the Nkhotakota district in the central region that links it with Salima district has been washed away, while a clinic in Nsanje in the southern region was flooded." Chiusiwa added that a primary school in Chikwawa, north of the economic capital, Blantyre, was also flooded, causing damage to books and classrooms.

Water levels

The rains in Malawi started on 12 March and the country received an unusually high rainfall of 165 mm, officials of the disaster management authority told IRIN. Many rivers were flooded and burst their banks, which led to the damage in low-lying areas.

Chiusiwa said at least five rivers in the southern Chikwawa district, which borders Mozambique, burst their banks, while four in the northern Karonga district were also flooded.

Affected areas

Chiusiwa said the affected areas are Karonga in the north of the country, where 10,000 households were flooded at the weekend when heavy rains hit the low-lying marshland district. "The department is assessing the damage and impact of the floods to determine the form of assistance to be given."

In Nkhotakota, Chiusiwa said, 2,000 household gardens have been washed away while initial estimates are that about 150 houses were damaged. He added that 1,051 households were displaced in Nsanje on the southern tip of the country.

In Chikwawa 1,024 households have also been displaced and are accommodated in temporary shelters and public buildings following the flooding of their houses.

Food

The food security situation of the displaced flood victims is under threat as the majority of Malawians depend on their household gardens for food. Chiusiwa said many of the planted crops, which were due to be harvested next month, have been destroyed.

However, the government has provided maize flour, beans, salt and cereal for children under five in Chikwawa, Nsanje and Nkhotakota.

Non-food aid

Willie Gidala, the deputy commissioner of the disaster management authority, told IRIN earlier that the government had supplied flood victims with more than 2,000 blankets, plastic sheeting, as well as plates and other cooking utensils.

MOZAMBIQUE

The US defence department reported that improvements to Mozambique's road and rail networks had led to less reliance on military air transport and that it was starting to withdraw its air support this week.

"The re-deployment of the US military forces will be accomplished in phases but will not phase out completely until additional civilian helicopters have been contracted," USAID said in its latest report this week. WFP has said it required 13 helicopters and five planes to maintain relief operations at current capacity, and USAID said it would ensure funding.

Since the military assistance started on 6 March, US aircraft have carried more than one million pounds of humanitarian relief cargo and approximately 500 passengers, mainly aid workers and assessment team members.

On 23 March, USAID and the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) provided a second grant of US $2 million to AirServ for additional air and transport support for relief operations. Also on 23 March, USAID and OFDA responded to WFP's appeal for relief transport operations with a US $1 million grant. WFP is seeking US $8.5 million to finance air relief operations.

Health

USAID reported that two major hospitals in the capital, Maputo, the Jose Macamo hospital and the Mavalane hospital, have an urgent need for additional staff, especially nurses. They also lack adequate medical equipment such as syringes and needles, antibiotics, and other supplies. At both hospitals, the Swiss chapter of Medecins sans Frontiers (MSF) and USAID have set up special treatment centres for diarrhoea diseases. The two hospitals are also handling a growing number of cholera cases.

The Mozambique government, meanwhile, has reported that a vaccination campaign initiated last week in accommodation centres and isolated settlements was now nearly complete. In collaboration with UNICEF and NGOs, the campaign targeted children between nine and 59 months for measles, pregnant women for tetanus, and the entire population of the target areas for meningitis. The health ministry reported that routine vaccinations are being conducted in health facilities that still have functioning cold chain equipment. Prior to the floods, an estimated 30 percent of vaccination centres were experiencing service delivery problems.

The ministry of health also said a recent assessment in the southern town of Chokwe had shown evidence of psychological trauma among flood victims. As a result, it has asked NGOs to consider adding mental health, as well as HIV/AIDS interventions, to their assistance programmes.

UNICEF and WFP are currently providing more than 129 mt of high-protein biscuits to children and adults and expect to establish therapeutic feeding centres in various centres soon.

Water and sanitation

The World Bank, in cooperation with the national water authority, has revised upwards from US $16 million to US $19 million the estimated cost of responding to emergency needs in the water sector.

However, the USAID report said its specialists had calculated that a more focused water sector recovery programme, covering emergency well rehabilitation, basic piped water system repairs, and emergency latrines, would cost US $10 million.

Shelter

WHO has reported that of 58,893 people identified in nine out of 20 localities in the affected areas, 21 percent of people are living in their damaged homes, while 79 percent are sheltering in schools, churches, and on the verandas of shops and health posts.

Transport and logistics

On 22 and 23 March, WFP said it had delivered 350 mt of food, mainly by air, to Gaza Province (205 mt), Sofala (99 mt), Maputo (44 mt), and Manica (three mt). On 21 March, USAID staff conducted a flood damage assessment of two main roads rehabilitated with USAID funding. The roads are located in the Zambezi river valley, between Caia and Sena in Sofala Province and between Mutarara and Vila Nova da Fronteira in Tete province.

"The assessment revealed that both roads are in good condition. However, USAID staff observed ruts, small potholes, erosion of the road shoulder and washouts around some culverts," it said. "Immediate emergency repairs are ongoing, and USAID is working with the Mozambican Roads Authority to provide urgent maintenance attention to these roads before further degradation occurs."

The government department of public works reported that in central Mozambique, the road to Buzi has been repaired and that the Beira-Save road is under repair. Roads in the southern Sofala and northern Inhambane areas reportedly will be repaired in the next two weeks, if there is no further flooding.

Donors

Sweden has committed about US $2.3 million and may provide an additional US $3.4 million in the future.

Spain has provided US $9.4 million in emergency humanitarian assistance, including the cost of two military hospitals, an air force field hospital, a helicopter and relief supplies.

Ireland has pledged US $500,000 in emergency assistance through Irish and international NGOs. Total Irish government funding to date in response to the disaster in Mozambique is approximately US $3 million.

On Monday, the IMF approved a US $50 million credit for Mozambique, and said the funds would be made available on an accelerated basis because of the floods.

ZIMBABWE

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) announced a new UN Inter-Agency Appeal for flood victims in Zimbabwe amounting to an additional US $3.31 million. An original appeal on 8 March requested US $26.3 million from donors.

In a report on Monday, OCHA said the updated appeal included proposals from UNHCR and the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO). UNHCR will provide emergency assistance such as food, household items, water and sanitation. It will also help short-term rehabilitation and repair work to damaged camp structures at Tongogara camp in Manicaland, which houses nearly 400 people.

"The outstanding requirements are for repairs of main roads and bridges to improve access to the affected areas," the OCHA report said. Road repair is also a critical element for local economic activities. For instance, in Mutare, in Manicaland, sawmills employing a large number of people are not operational because logs cannot be transported under the current condition of roads and bridges."

NANGO will assist the NGO Liaison Committee on Disasters (NLCD) in coordinating NGO response to the flood disaster and create a liaison mechanism between the Government, donors, the UN agencies and NGOs.

Priority areas

OCHA said the areas requiring priority interventions include Chiredzi, in Masvingo Province, Plumtree in Matebeleland South Province, and Chipinge and Chimanimani in Manicaland. It said continuing rains were hindering recovery and damaging crops in the southern part of the country.

It said UN teams returning from the flood zones in Zimbabwe had found assessment difficult because some affected areas remained inaccessible, and because of a lack of resources for the civil protection teams at district and provincial levels.

Other sectors

OCHA said two important sectors, which had not been addressed in the current appeal, were shelter and environment. "These and other longer-term requirements will be reflected in the next revision of the appeal," it said.

MADAGASCAR

In Madagascar, the weather bureau this week reported cloudy conditions, with showers and thunderstorms expected off the coast.

The giant Indian ocean island 400 km off the coast of Mozambique was the first country to feel the full impact of the floods when cyclone Eline passed over in February and cyclone Gloria hit the island before moving on to Mozambique.

WFP told IRIN on Tuesday its main objective was to provide immediate food and non-food emergency assistance. It said about 132,592 displaced people needed emergency assistance. On 23 March, USAID and OFDA responded to a WFP special appeal for emergency transport operations in Madagascar with a US $400,050 grant. According to WFP, the immediate emergency operation is expected to last 30 days.

Health

The government disaster relief agency, the Conseil national de secours (CNS) health committee this week said recent surveys had confirmed an outbreak of bloody diarrhoea in the east and southeast. It also reported a potential measles epidemic in the northeast.

Assessments

On 21 March, the US ambassador to Madagascar, Shirley Barnes, visited the devastated northeast party of the island with representatives of the UNDP, WFP, UNICEF, WHO, and the World Bank.

USAID said the visit, to the towns of Sambava and Maroantsetra, and aerial inspections, "indicate that there are no apparent immediate life-threatening situations. However, airlift support for food distribution and provision of medical and clean water supplies are necessary and medium-to-long term crop restoration and rehabilitation of transportation infrastructures are essential."

Assessments by USAID last week along the road from the capital, Antananarivo to Toamasina on the east coast showed that most of the low valley areas in that region experienced only minimal crop damage. But it said the Oramanga and Anosibe An'alah region, in the central east of the country, suffered crop losses of up to 50 percent. The price of rice, the staple food in Madagascar, had nearly doubled on the local market.

"Other areas of the country, especially the east and southeast, are also reported to have suffered significant agricultural damage," it said. Although it considered that an "emergency situation no longer exists", USAID said medium and long-term agricultural, health and infrastructure rehabilitation "are absolutely essential". It cited numerous landslides on the roads in the Oramanga and Anosibe An'alah area.

Those in need

According to the latest CNS figures, the number of people in need of immediate food and relief supplies is now 184,831 and the number of displaced persons is 22,158.

SOUTH AFRICA

The USAID office in the South African capital, Pretoria, reported this week that floods in the areas bordering Mozambique had resulted in the death of approximately 100 people, several hundred injuries, the collapse of numerous homes, damage to electricity and water supply infrastructure, and huge losses in commercial and subsistence agriculture.

"Significant sums of money will be required to restore economic infrastructure, schools, and other public facilities to their original condition," it said.

The areas affected

Four of South Africa's nine provinces, Mpumalanga, Northern Province, KwaZulu-Natal, and Gauteng with a combined population of some 1.5 million were hit by flooding. USAID said that most flood damage occurred in Mpumalanga and Northern provinces. But in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, hundreds of the poor and unemployed, many living in informal settlements, had been left homeless as a result of the flooding.

Flood damage from torrential rains is concentrated in the Northern Province in areas north of Pietersburg and south of the Zimbabwean border. The area to the east along the border with Mozambique also sustained considerable damage to roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.

The damage

"While the most obvious destruction in the Northern Province was to transportation infrastructure, many houses also collapsed, especially in the Thohoyandou area, leaving hundreds of people homeless," USAID said.

An estimated 120,000 families in the Northern Province were short of food as a result of damage to transportation infrastructure and loss of food supplies, crops, and livestock. It described damage to irrigation infrastructure, livestock, dams, spillways, production equipment, and crops as extensive.

"Although crop losses on private commercial farms are significant, most of these losses are insured. Losses suffered by subsistence farmers, which were also widespread, are mostly uninsured," it said.

In Mpumalanga, the floods destroyed approximately 1,240 km of paved roads, 1,306 km of gravel roads, and 120 km of farm roads. At least 84 bridges were heavily damaged. The floods also damaged 16 large dams, numerous small dams located on farms, and 25 spillways.

Health

In Northern Province, access to a number of hospitals and clinics was also affected. Some 300 clinics and two hospitals suffered flood damage.

In Mpumalanga province, the health department has distributed water purification chemicals and water and sanitation-related educational materials to affected areas. It has also stockpiled medicines in the area, as a preventive measure for possible outbreaks of malaria, cholera, and diarrhoeal diseases.

Homes and schools

In both Mpumalanga and Northern provinces, approximately 6,500 homes were damaged.

Schooling has been disrupted in Mpumalanga and Northern Province, especially in isolated communities. According to the South African education ministry, 1,000 schools were damaged in both provinces.

The impact

"Work is proceeding on repair of important bridges in agricultural areas to enable farmers to salvage fruits and vegetables and move them to market," the report said. "Farmers have been hauling large quantities of tomatoes and potatoes out of water-soaked fields. Revenues from South Africa's produce market are expected to decline by 60 percent due to flood damage. Vegetable prices have risen sharply since the flooding began. However, this rise in price is expected to be temporary since farmers will shortly begin to plant for the next cropping season."

It said significant damage to the country's dams, roads, pipelines, and other facilities is also expected to have negative impact on the economy. According to the National Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, community water systems in the areas affected by the floods have been severely damaged. In many cases, it added, river channels have expanded to two to three times their pre-flood width, necessitating construction of new pumping stations at alternative sites.

Floods have damaged the Kruger National Park, South Africa's most popular tourist destination. Washed-out bridges limit access to parts of the park and closed entry gates restrict access. USAID said lost revenue from cancelled bookings and infrastructure repair costs will weigh heavily on the tourist industry.

The response

The government, the private sector, local and international NGO's, and donors continue to be significantly involved in relief efforts, it said. Thus far, relief workers have provided emergency assistance to approximately 15,000 families in Mpumalanga province and 120,000 families in the Northern province.

It said that because many of the affected areas were isolated, reliance on South African National Defence Force (SANDF) helicopters for search and rescue support and transport services has been significant. The government has allocated large amounts of unbudgeted funds toward SANDF operations not only in South Africa, but also in Mozambique.

"Overall, the flood response effort in South Africa has reached a new phase with the end of search and rescue operations," USAID said. "Assistance now is targeted at humanitarian relief and infrastructure repair. The current priority focuses on repair of roads to isolated areas, so that essential relief may be delivered."

The US government has allocated US $25,000 to the South African Red Cross for the purchase of emergency relief supplies. The defence department provided 50 mt of tents and blankets to flood victims in Mpumalanga and Northern Province.

[ENDS]

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