Epidemic red alert in Mozambique

From WEEKLY NEWS 10/00 9 March 2000
Further heavy rainfalls are severely hampering relief efforts in Mozambique and could lead to more flooding. Earlier this week, thousands of people began returning home as the flood waters started receding. But the biggest threat to them now is the spread of disease.

Malaria is rampant and supplies of the drug fansidar are urgently needed. The numbers of suspected cholera cases are rising sharply - latest WHO figures show nearly 1,100 in Maputo and Sofala provinces alone, with up to 23 new cases being reported each week. The Red Cross has been building latrines and supplying emergency water to minimise the risk of disease in Maputo and will now focus on the rehabilitation and disinfection of water points, wells and boreholes. In Gaza province, the Red Cross will focus on the provision of safe water in the rural areas around the town of Chokwe. The aim is to clean 150 water points within six months to provide water for up to 20,000 people. But the speedy return of displaced people to homes where broken sewage pipes have been leaking into floodwaters means conditions are ideal for a dramatic increase in cholera. People's resistance to disease is already undermined after weeks of inadequate food and lack of shelter. Aid has been pouring into the country and has begun to filter through to the people, but very slowly. Now the renewed rains have largely put a stop to the deliveries. As well as food aid, the Red Cross has sent tents, plastic sheeting, kitchen sets and clothes for thousands of people in Gaza, Maputo and Sofala provinces. In Beira, the provincial capital of Sofala, the International Federation has established a sub-delegation to help 18,000 flood victims in central Mozambique. As elsewhere in the country, the help will extend to long-term needs. In a few weeks, the planting season begins and in a country where entire crops have been lost, seeds and tools will have to be supplied. The floods, which have affected nearly one million people in Mozambique, have left other problems in their wake. Families have been separated and the Mozambique Red Cross is working with the ICRC to look into establishing a tracing system. Another result of the floods is the danger posed by dislodged mines, which may continue to have a devastating impact on the population.


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