Westport, CT - Save the Children is reporting that thousands of homeless children in flood-ravaged Mozambique have been separated from their families. The international child assistance organization is mobilizing to provide emergency aid, including efforts to reunite children with surviving parents.
There are at least 150 unaccompanied children at one camp in Chiaquelane and another 100 at a camp in Bilene. As the death count from the flood climbs, there are fears that hundreds, perhaps, thousands of children may be orphaned by the deluge that has driven an estimated one million people from their homes. Helicopter rescue efforts have been targeting stranded children, often leaving behind their parents. An increased number of drownings is also accounting for the separations.
Annie Foster, Save the Children's Field Office Director in Mozambique, visited the Chiaquelane camp on Thursday. She said conditions there are extremely harsh.
"It's almost inconceivable," Foster said. "These children have watched their homes and towns completely washed away, and many of them don't know where their parents are.
Now they're in these crowded camps with no tents and practically no food. You see them sitting under these big trees looking shocked and stunned."
Save the Children, which has been working to improve children's lives in Mozambique since 1988, plans to register unaccompanied children in the camps in an attempt to reunite them with their families.
"We'll take their pictures and find out their names, ages and where they're from," Foster said. "We'll also try to find out if some children have been taken in by other families. You can't do anything without getting that information first."
The flooding has led to fears of a cholera epidemic caused by contaminated water. To combat the problem, Save the Children will educate children and adults about ways to prevent the deadly infectious disease, which is characterized by diarrhea, vomiting and cramps. The program is being funded with a $132,000 grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development.
"This is a life-threatening situation, especially for children," Foster said. "They don't know that drinking dirty water can kill you." Foster just returned from a helicopter tour of flooded areas near the swollen Limpopo River in Gaza Province. Rescue helicopters have been lifting people to safety from rooftops, trees and floating debris, but thousands remain stranded.
"You see chickens and bundles of possessions left on the rooftops by people who have been removed by helicopter," Foster said. "You see people in little rowboats. People are still stranded in trees."
Save the Children operates ongoing health, education and economic programs in Gaza Province, the area hardest hit by the flood. When the flooding subsides, Save the Children and UNICEF will help rebuild and resupply primary schools in the region. Seed kits also will be distributed to the neediest families for planting.
Save the Children began working in Mozambique to help children devastated by the country's long civil war, but programs were later expanded to create lasting change for children and their families in Gaza and Nampula provinces. Today, nearly 300,000 people benefit from those programs.
Save the Children is an international nonprofit child-assistance organization that works in 46 countries, including the United States. Its mission is to make lasting, positive change in the lives of children in need. Save the Children also is a member of the International Save the Children Alliance, a worldwide network of 26 independent Save the Children organizations working in more than 100 countries.
Save the Children has established a Mozambique Flood Emergency Fund.
To make contributions, please phone 1-800-SAVETHECHILDREN, visit our website at www.savethechildren.org or mail your donation to: Save the Children Mozambique Flood Emergency Fund, PO Box 975-M, Westport, CT 06881