When Louis’ corrugated iron roof collapsed from heavy rain, he fled to his son’s higher concrete rooftop. However, when the water threatened to reach the roof where they perched, both father and son decided to evacuate. Tomas, his son who is profoundly deaf, had to carry his father, who is a double amputee, on his shoulders through floodwaters up to his neck.
Flooding across Mozambique since late January has affected over 250 000 people and displaced almost 190 000. In Gaza, the hardest hit province where Louis and Tomas live, nearly all of the early people affected – over 172 000 – have also been displaced.
Louis and Tomas waited on the side of the road outside the flooded town of Chokwe, in Gaza Province until a truck took them to a temporary accommodation centre, where they were housed in a Red Cross tent. There are not enough tents or even tarpaulins so people are resorting to makeshift coverings using plastic sheets, taking shelter under trucks and some with nothing at all, are just sitting under the hot sun.
Essential relief items are also in short supply. A successful early warning system meant people were quickly and safely evacuated, but they did so only with what they could carry. Mosquito nets, items for cooking, carrying water and sleeping mats were all left behind.
With the rainy season lasting until the end of April, and flood damaged Chokwe not safe to return to, it is not known how long people will stay in these camps. What is known is that without the adequate relief required to support this large displaced population, conditions in the camps will worsen and become a disaster on their own.
Limited water supplies combined with growing rubbish heaps in the camps, are creating unsanitary conditions which have the potential to become serious health hazards. Medical staff at health centres are treating people with illnesses reflective of these conditions; Malaria, diarrhoea and gastrointestinal problems are all present.
The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), alongside the Mozambique Red Cross, is providing relief to people affected by flooding in accommodation camps. A team of sanitation experts is helping to clean Chokwe, to make it a safe and healthy city, so people like Louis can return and start rebuilding their lives.
The IFRC receives funding from ECHO, the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department. This funding is used to support people affected by disaster around the world.
IFRC and ECHO are currently running a worldwide campaign to highlight the plight of populations affected by ‘Silent Disasters‘ – the ones that do not make our TV screens or news headlines.
Hanna Butler IFRC Regional Communications Officer for southern Africa, based in Botswana