IRW responds to Mozambique floods

News and Press Release
Originally published
A humanitarian effort by Islamic Relief Worldwide- South Africa (IRW-SA) to assist flood victims in Mozambique was successfully initiated on Friday, in the northeastern province of Zambezia, where rising floodwaters have forced thousands of families to abandon their homes in search of higher ground.

The response team led by Cassiem Khan, IRW-SA Country Director, arrived in Mozambique to assess the damage and to investigate relief aid requirements. An arrangement was made with a local NGO, 'Comunidade Muculmana De Quelimane' (established in 1920) to assist Islamic Relief in pursuing its assessment objectives.

IRW set up its base of operation in Quelimane, the capital of Zambezia Province. This province was selected for several reasons: It is the one of the poorest, the most populous and worst affected by floods as the mighty Zambezi River runs into the Indian Ocean through this province.

Upon our arrival we met with the (INGC) disaster management center in Quelimane for a thorough briefing on the actual numbers of people affected, their location, their immediate needs, and how to access them.

The second important meeting was held at the offices of the Governor of Zambezia Province, where long-term impacts of the floods were discussed. Islamic Relief shared its experience and information, in the form of a document, about setting up of camps during emergencies with the Provincial Government's office.

IRW-SA committed to immediately support 2700 people with basic needs such as food for a month, plastic sheeting for shelter and household utensils, by sourcing and distributing the aid directly. The relief kits are valued at 18 US Dollars each.

IRW-SA also expressed another objective to the Provincial governor, which is to provide seeds and farming utensil for 552 households, in preparation for the April planting season as this will assist in their re-settlement.

IRW concentrated its relief aid on Sunday, 4th March 2007, in the Morrumbala district, selected for its remoteness. The team was accompanied by INGC officials and found the numbers of flood displaced people are rising.

The Mozambican authorities, as well as the local NGO in Quelimane appreciated IRW's initiative, ideas and quality of assistance provided. The Zambezia Governor's office indicated they would assist IRW-SA in arranging the required documentation and registration for a second long-term phase of assistance to the region.

Assessment of the situation

The country suffered previous setbacks when in 2000 and 2001 it was hit by floods that affected about a quarter of the population and destroyed much of its infrastructure.

In comparison to Cyclone Flavio, which destroyed many buildings in the resort town of Vilankulo last week, the destruction caused by flooding is massive in sale and has a lasting impact.

When the first round of flooding subsided, people began returning to their homes, only to be informed that more floods are expected soon. This was a difficult task, as the rains had stopped and the people were not easily convinced about pending dangers.

The second round of flooding occurred when the Cahora Bassa Dam overflowed due to heavy rains in neighboring Zambia and Zimbabwe, forcing the dam wall gates to be opened, which released 8400 cubic meters of water downstream.

A third round of flooding resulted when the Malawian Shire River drained into the Zambezi river, swelling its banks and adding to an already desperate situation in the province.

The Mozambique government's response teams have been praised widely for its efforts to reducing casualties from the floods. Approximately 70 people have died during this calamity, in comparison to the 2000 floods which claimed more than 800 lives.

Unfortunately for the people of Mozambique, media coverage of the crisis has faded. The focus on rural villages submerged beneath the water has now moved on, as there were no dramatic events such helicopters rescuing people from treetops and babies being born during the disaster, as in 2001.

However the suffering continues for the 58 815 people internally displaced, who are located in 23 sites within the Zambezia Province. Their homes, farming implements, domestic utensils have been washed away, whilst their land remains water logged.

A people who for generations have lived a subsistence farming life, are now forced to depend on aid from donor agencies such as IRW.

The Mozambican government authorities have encouraged people to move to higher ground, but this itself is a massive resettlement programme with which the authorities can and should be supported.