Latest update on floods in Southern Africa 08 March 2000

Report
from Christian Aid
Published on 08 Mar 2000
Mozambique
Rainfall over southern Africa has decreased during the last few days and water levels in the Limpopo, Save and Zambezi rivers are dropping. As a result, floodwaters in the central and southern provinces of Mozambique have begun to subside.

However the South African Weather Bureau has predicted that heavy rain is expected during the next 24 hours in the same areas that have already been devastated by the floods. A tropical depression known as 'Gloria' has already brought heavy rains to Madagascar, affecting more than 500,000 people and is now just off the coast of Mozambique.

An estimated 400 deaths have been reported so far, but there is now great concern that these figures may rise as a result of increasing incidences of cholera, malaria, diarrhoea and dehydration.

Reconstruction

The Mozambique government's first priority is road access. Mozambique's trade with other African nations such as South Africa and Zimbabwe and externally via its sea ports depends on it. Mozambique will need to begin trading again as soon as possible to support reconstruction.

Road access is also essential if desperately needed food and water supplies are to be delivered. Temporary roads and bridges will allow local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to mobilise their resources more rapidly and efficiently.

Camps and displaced people

There are an estimated 86 camps for people who have been forced to flee their homes and communities in Mozambique. Although as many as 900,000 to 1 million people have been affected by the floods, only an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 people are in the camps.

Conditions in many of the camps are rough. Many are overcrowded and some have not yet received essential water supplies and equipment such as water pumps, purification equipment and latrines. Local organisations and international aid agencies are working to deliver supplies to these camps as quickly as possible.

Although medical personnel have begun to arrive in the camps, many people have already developed serious health problems such as malaria, diarrhoea and cholera.

Returning home

Many Mozambicans are understandably desperate to return to their homes as soon as possible. They are desperate to find out if their property has been destroyed or flooded and if their livestock is still alive. There is also a very strong desire by farming families to begin cultivating their land again, particularly if they are able to plant fast growing seeds that can be harvested within 30 days.

To remain in the camps or return home now is a dilemma faced by many Mozambican people. Future flooding may once again isolate families who have returned home, leaving them stranded without food, water and access to medical care once again. Despite this concern many agencies such as Christian Aid's partners, the Christian Council of Mozambique and ORAM, are trying to support those who have decided to return home.

Christian Aid partners responsed

ORAM

ORAM are concentrating their relief and emergency assistance efforts in the Gaza province of southern Mozambique. Christian Aid has approved a grant to ORAM for £301,209 to support emergency relief work in three districts, Chibuto, Chokwe and Canicado.

ORAM will provide kits to families whose homes have been washed away. The kits will provide basic materials for building temporary shelters; kitchen utensils such as enamel pots, plates, mugs and spoons, buckets and jerry cans for water. Soap, blankets and some clothes will also be included. The first batch of 2,000 kits will be distributed in approximately four days time. Four thousand more kits will follow.

ORAM also wants to provide agricultural support in the form of seeds and essential tools to enable farmers to quickly plant new crops that can be rapidly harvested.

Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM)

The Christian Council of Mozambique has been given a £50,000 grant by Christian Aid to help purchase desperately needed food, other relief goods and to support emergency relief efforts.

CCM has secured warehouse space to store essential items that can then be distributed by its churches and volunteers. In Chibuto in southern Mozambique, CCM has its own warehouse that is currently being used as temporary shelter by more than 300 people. CCM will distribute 4,500 emergency kits during the next four days similar to those to be distributed by ORAM.

Debt

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has announced that it will not cancel Mozambique's debt, despite calls from debt campaign groups around the world, including the Jubilee 2000 Coalition.

Mozambique currently owes at least US $8.3 billion (over £5 billion) to the International Monetary fund. Instead the IMF is considering a proposal to suspend Mozambique's debt service for one year so that Mozambique may begin to recover from this disaster.

The British government announced at the end of February that it will cancel US $150 million owed by Mozambique as part of bilateral debt.

Zimbabwe

In Masvingo Province, 2,500 homes are thought to have been destroyed by the floods. The loss of crops is estimated to be more than £1 million. To further add to the devastation, more than 1,000 head of livestock have drowned.

In Matabeleland South Province 16,000 head of livestock are thought to have drowned and almost £10 million worth of crops have been destroyed.

Manicaland Province has experienced the most extensive crop damage, with an estimated £32 million worth of damage, as well as the loss of approximately 1,300 homes.

Ed Watkiss, Christian Aid field officer in Harare, has been working closely with partner organisations in Zimbabwe to respond to the emergency and plan medium- to long-term rehabilitation.

South Africa

Christian Aid has made a grant to the South Africa Council of Churches for £25,000 to support its emergency assistance efforts with those affected by the floods.