Mozambique - 200,000 homeless

Over a week after severe flash floods hit southern Mozambique leaving more than 200,000 people homeless, thousands of people are still stranded on isolated bits of high ground without food and water.
Logistical problems are hampering their rescue as roads and bridges have been washed away. Red Cross officials in Mozambique have also been using helicopters with UNICEF and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to assess the situation.

Robert Frazer, a Red Cross Regional Water and Sanitation Delegate was part of an assesment trip over the Limpopo River. "Only 20-30 kms from the mouth of the river, we were confronted by a sea of water and as we continued up the river, the flooding was even more extensive with many medium sized towns completely submerged and many more threatened."

Flying over the Incomati River further south, Robert saw many people stranded on rooftops, and on the remains of roads and briges. Some of them, he said, had been there for two to three days.

The Red Cross is airlifting more volunteers to augment those already on the ground. The volunteers are delivering first aid kits and chlorine to sanitise the water supplies. Robert Frazer says the Red Cross is trying to "target large numbers of people who, though stranded, are not under immediate threat and who won't need to be evacuated."

For the nearly 100,000 people made homeless in Maputo, Red Cross officials have been distributing relief in food, blankets and shelter. Since the Federation launched an appeal for 2.8 million Swiss francs last week, there has been much interest from donor national societies. Through the British government's Department For International Development (DIFD), the British Red Cross Society has already distributed 400 tents and 150 rolls of plastic sheeting. Water sanitation equipment has arrived from Zimbabwe and generators from South Africa.

The main water supply in Maputo city, cut for two to three days is now largely back up with 70% of water safe to drink. But with aproximately 100,000 people without access to safe water, Red Cross workers have put temporary water supplies into the worst hit areas of the city and are training volunteers in basic chlorination to try and avoid dysentery, malaria and cholera. The Mozambique Red Cross Society (MRCS) has set up 20 first aid posts in Maputo with the help of the Mozambique Ministry of Health to provide basic health needs. But it is only when the flood waters have begun to recede and access to the areas is possible that large scale relief will begin.

=A91997 International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies