Five-hundred UN personnel now in the field for Mozambique floods

There are now some 500 United Nations personnel

  • including 150 international staff - on the ground in Mozambique working on flood relief, a senior UN official announced today.
    "We have more helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft than we ever hoped to get," said UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Carolyn McAskie, adding that food was being distributed. "But the big issue now is clean water."

"What the floods have done to regular water supplies is unimaginable, and the big effort will be to disinfect existing supplies...and to create fresh supplies by the digging of new bore holes," Ms. McAskie said. "The other big need, of course, will be medicines, and the threat of malaria is there."

Reports from Mozambique say thousands of people have contracted malaria from the swarms of mosquitoes breeding in the stagnant floodwater. However, there were no reports yet of any outbreaks of cholera, Ms. McAskie said.

As of today, the international community had pledged a total of $107 million in aid to Mozambique, and the focus was now moving towards reconstruction. The Government of Mozambique had asked for an international conference on aid for rehabilitation and rebuilding.

"The tragedy for Mozambique is that here was a country that had pulled itself out of a war situation. Both sides had made enormously difficult compromises for the sake of rebuilding the nation, and the devastating effect that [the floods] will have on development can hardly be calculated," the UN official said.

Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said today that it was launching its first airlift operation to deliver "urgently needed emergency food rations" to tens of thousands of people left destitute by floods in Madagascar.

The Rome-based agency warned that more than half a million people in the areas worst affected by cyclones Eline and Gloria will need emergency relief supplies of both food and medicine. "Some of the worst damaged areas on the Indian Ocean island are extremely remote," WFP added.