FEWS Mozambique Food Security Warning: Floods in Zambezi, rainfall deficits in south

Originally published

The risk of major flooding along the Zambezi River has increased significantly due to continued moderate to heavy rains in the Zambezi River basin (see Figure 1). Floods have already displaced households, damaged crops and made secondary roads impassable, which is impeding the movement of people and goods. People in flood-prone areas are advised to relocate, and assistance for displaced households is needed.

As a result of the heavy rains, inflows to the Cahora Bassa Dam on the Zambezi (Figure 1) reached 11,000 m3/s on February 8, a significant increase from the inflows of 8,000 m3/s on February 5 and higher than the inflows recorded at the same time in 2001, when significant flooding occurred (the 2001 inflows peaked at 13,800 m3/s on February 22). These inflows have forced dam managers to release increased amounts of water into the lower Zambezi, and river heights in all hydrometric stations along the river are above alert levels and rising. The increased discharges, additional inflows from major tributaries such as the Shire and persistent rainfall will worsen the flooding along the lower Zambezi.

These flooding conditions may last until the end of March, given current weather conditions and forecasts. People living in the at-risk areas of Tambara and Mutarara in Tete Province, Chemba, Caia and Marromeu in Sofala Province and Mopeia, Morrumbala and Chinde in Zambézia Province are urged to quickly relocate to safe areas. Temporary shelters have been established in safe areas along the Zambezi River, but urgent resource mobilization is needed now to assist the displaced households. Food, health and water interventions are recommended for at least two months. More details will be available following an assessment in late February.

Conversely, the virtual absence of rainfall combined with abnormally high temperatures in most of southern Mozambique during the 2006/07 season may result in poor local harvests, especially for maize. In some areas, cassava and sorghum may survive and will help maintain food security over the coming months. In maize-dependent areas, however, the upcoming second season will be critical for food security, although that harvest is 5 to 6 months away.