Around 15,000 people who had returned to their homes in Chokwe, Mozambique, in addition to thousands who have remained in the town throughout the flood period, have come under renewed threat as water levels have again begun to rise in the Limpopo river.
Further heavy rain in the riverís catchment areas in Zimbabwe and South Africa have caused waves of water to flow down the river valley that are predicted to reach Chokwe soon. Chokwe is particularly vulnerable to flooding as it is situated in a low lying area with no higher ground for some distance.
As a result of a worsening situation, 2,000 people left Chokwe on Tuesday, March 21, and moved to the main camp for displaced people at Macia, 40 kms away, where they were provided with clean water and sanitation facilities. Oxfam is working with the authorities in Chokwe to help transport others who may want to leave as the waters rise.
Oxfam has put its staff in Macia on "full flood alert." They ar instructed to keep to tarmac roads because the situation could become as critical as it was three weeks ago when a surge of water caused severe flooding in and around Chokwe.
While the heavy rains of the past week are not as bad as the water dumped by Cyclone Eline on February 22, they pose a serious threat. The upper catchment areas in South Africa and Zimbabwe, which determine the water levels further down the Limpopo River, are already waterlogged, and it is feared that the rains could wreak havoc yet again.
Meanwhile floodwater has receded in some areas, leaving crops destroyed and homes washed away for thousands of people. The international air relief operation to affected areas of the Limpopo River valley continues.
The number of registered displaced people in flood affected areas on March 12 was 65,900 in Chiaquelane Camp, 22,000 in Macia, 13 to16,000 in Chokwe. Actual numbers are variable as people return to assess the situation in their home areas. Around 10,000 people have left Chokwe and arrived in Chiaquelane or Macia since March 21 due to the new flood alert.
The Chiaquelane camp is reported as being a clean and non-congested camp, with Oxfam plastic sheeting providing the bulk of the shelter. The camp is integrated physically with a pre-existing village community, including shops and market and some hand pumps in addition to the two main water points.
The effects of the devastation on the town and surrounding agricultural area are enormous and include an abandoned seed factory in Lionde and breakdown of infrastructure at all levels. Oxfam is assisting with reinstating the town water supply, supplemented by trucking of water from Lionde. Cleaning up of the town is now a priority as people start returning. The townís hospital is full of mud and currently unusable.
Oxfam had planned assessments further afield this week but the plans are on hold following the new flood alert and movements of people in Chokwe.
Health and Nutrition
Food continues to be supplied by World Food Program (WFP) and distributed by Caritas. Physicians with Doctors Without Borders (DWB) are reported to be concerned by signs of malnutrition in the Chiaquelane camp and say there may be need for therapeutic feeding. They report enough visible acute malnutrition in children to justify an immediate therapeutic feeding centre, which DWB is considering going ahead with.
The Spanish military have set up a field hospital, and Oxfam is helping with provision of water and latrines for an center for unaccompanied children.
Oxfamís health team is designing a malaria response, to directly link into plans already developed by the Health Ministry. A nutrition survey is also being carried out in the Chokwe area.
Crop losses of those around Chokwe are around 100% - even rainfed crops outside the irrigation areas were inundated. There is, however, some cassava on the higher ground that has not been flooded, but thre is not enough to re-stock the areas lost. Livestock losses were also very high ñ an estimated 80% of households lost all cattle, goats chickens and ducks. Estimates are that there are 33,000 farming households in Chokwe District ñ 95% of which have lost all crops.
Oxfam is carrying out a rapid food security assessment and developing a seeds and tools programme, to be implemented by Oxfam International and partners.
Seeds and Tools
Seeds and tools needs are both for the current planting and for the next agricultural year (October). The Government has stipulated a generic list of necessary seeds and tools for the next planting (10kg short season OPV maize, 3kg F. Nhemba, 3 kg F. Manteiga, 10g onion, 10gr tomato, 10g cabbage, 20gr pumpkin, 2 hoes, 1 bushknife, 1 Axe). However the government has also accepted local flexibility to respond to specific needs and availability.
Members of Oxfam International are supporting existing partners to do seed and tool distributions.
There have been widespread livestock losses in the Limpopo valley (and elsewhere). This includes cattle, goats/sheep, ducks and chickens. This has serious implications for the household asset base and therefore food security in times of stress. In areas where cattle are used for plowing, it will also limit crop production recovery.
Oxfam, through partner organisation UNAC, plans restocking as part of their ongoing development projects. Partner organisation UGC has proposed rebuilding their previously successful chicken supply network. Other requests from new partners are also being assessed.
Distribution of non-food items has been improved by the increased involvement of the District Administration. 1,410 Oxfam buckets were distributed in one day this week.