Flooding in Mozambique: An Emergency Appeal

Background and Summary

Mozambique's civil war ended in 1992, was followed by multi-party elections in 1994, and since then the country has taken off economically. Starting in 1994 Mozambique has experienced annual growth of at least 8%, and in 1999 led the world with a GDP growth rate of 9%. As recently as February 17th at the National Summit on Africa in Washington, D.C., President Clinton and others highlighted the impressive economic and social recovery Mozambique has experienced, and lauded the successful efforts on the part of the Mozambican people to better themselves and their surroundings.

It is therefore all the more saddening that such a devastating natural disaster should befall what was only a few years ago one of the world's poorest countries at a time when the fruits of its hard work and economic reforms are starting to pay off. Despite already dire predictions as to the effect the floods will have on the economy, the Government of Mozambique is working to minimize these negative effects, and trying to continue to provide the Mozambican people with the benefits of democracy and a free market. However, in a country that is still very poor the Government's resources are limited, and in the face of such a large-scale disaster outside help is urgently needed.

On February 10th the Government of Mozambique declared an official disaster created by severe flooding in the central and southern provinces of Gaza, Inhambane, Manica, Maputo and Sofala. On the same day the Government launched an emergency appeal for US$ 2.7 million for rescue operations and emergency relief assistance to flood victims (please see table). The floods have been characterized as the worst in the last 40 years, and the effects have been devastating:

  • at least 48 people dead, a figure expected to rise significantly as information arrives from isolated areas;
  • over 200,000 homeless and / or displaced persons in dire need of shelter and other disaster assistance;
  • travel by road made impossible throughout most of the region, prohibiting commerce and emergency services;
  • severe erosion and environmental degradation;
  • damage to infrastructure, including water / electrical supply and roads;
  • and the high risk of disease outbreak (mainly cholera and malaria) as a direct result of poor sanitary conditions created by the floods.

Clearly some of these afflictions will be more long-term than others, and for this reason the Government of Mozambique is preparing an additional appeal for post-flood reconstruction. Information is being gathered to determine the extent of damage to infrastructure that is in many cases still underwater, but an initial figure of US$ 17 million has been put forward. As soon as a detailed proposal is completed, it will be made available on the website.

What Can You Do?

The Mozambican Government is mobilizing all of its available resources to deal with this urgent situation. However, these domestic resources are clearly insufficient in the face of such overwhelming devastation, and therefore the Mozambican Government is asking for contributions from all donors, including individuals.

Organizations and their representatives in the United States are encouraged to directly contact the Embassy of Mozambican in Washington, D.C. tel. (202) 293 7146. However, both individuals and organizations wishing to make a financial contribution to flood relief efforts may do so by cheque payable to the Embassy of the Republic of Mozambique and mailed to:

Embassy of the Republic of Mozambique
1990 M St. N.W., Suite 570
Washington, D.C. 20036

Donations may also be made by bank transfer to the following account in the United States:

Embassy of Mozambique
Riggs Bank, Washington, D.C.
Acct. No. 08-791-513

We do not recommend sending cash donations by mail.

All funds received will be directed to the Mozambican Institute for National Disaster Management (INGC), part of the Government of Mozambique. The INGC is renowned for its work during the difficult war years, and is Mozambique's first and best line of defense against natural disasters.

Situation Report on the Floods

The storm of 4-7 January dumped record amounts of rainfall on Mozambique and northeastern South Africa (including 39 cms / 15 inches of rain in one 24-hour period). The situation in Mozambique is compounded by the fact that South African rivers flow through southern Mozambique, and dams in South Africa are unable to hold back the deluge. In fact, long after the rains ceased to fall floodwaters continued rising as the water from South Africa made its way eastward. The following rivers are at or above flood stage: Incomati, Umbeluzi, Sabie, Limpopo, Save and Buzi. These rivers dominate the geography and agriculture of central and southern Mozambique.

Housing. The suburban areas of Maputo and Matola cities suffered extensive inundation and erosion damage. Estimates for these areas alone are for almost 200,000 people left partially or completely homeless. Estimates for the outlying districts in other provinces have not been completed, but are expected to exceed another 50,000 at minimum. Several schools have been turned into temporary lodging facilities for homeless families, prohibiting school attendance by pupils. The tents requested from donors will help to alleviate this situation.

Transport and Communication. The main roads from Maputo to South Africa and Swaziland are both cut, although a road that was under construction between Maputo and South Africa has been opened temporarily to some traffic. The main road linking Maputo to the rest of the country to the north has also been cut, with no alternate route. Public transportation in the capital itself is still only partially functional due to flooding in the surrounding suburbs and countryside. Damage to telephone lines has not been completely determined yet, but it is extensive, and existing lines (both cellular and land) are overloaded.

Water Supply. Maputo's principal water treatment facility remains submerged, and all city water is affected. The quality of water is a major concern, and the city supply cannot be considered potable. Many people can be seen wandering the streets with plastic containers pleading for water from residences and businesses with reserves.

Energy. Large areas of Maputo Province, Maputo city, and suburban areas remain without electricity. High-tension towers, distribution substations, equipment, and poles have been damaged. Diesel and gasoline are still available, but kerosene is in short supply. Prices for all fuels are increasing rapidly.

Health. Many clinics and health centers have been without water supply, although NGOs have mitigated this situation. Demand for clinics is exceeding capacity, although so far cholera has not been reported. The threat of cholera and malaria is a major concern, and the WHO representative in Mozambique has stated that a cholera outbreak is likely in the next two weeks. According to officials from the NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF), current supplies of cholera medicine are insufficient for a large outbreak. Nonetheless, the Government is stockpiling these medicines as quickly as possible given limited resources.