Mozambique asks world for more aid
With an estimated 1 million people left homeless after three weeks of devastating floods, Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano has urged the world to send more aid to the ravaged country. Six South African helicopters have rescued 6,000 to 8,000 people but thousands more are still clinging to trees and rooftops as the raging waters continue to rise.
"The situation in the Limpopo Valley is worsening," Chissano told reporters after flying over the flooded town of Xai Xai, northeast of the capital, Maputo. "Only helicopters can help people who are hanging on the top of houses. There are people who are on the roofs of huts, in the trees waiting for rescue."
The floodwaters are expected to rise further as surging water in swelling rivers rushes toward Mozambique from the highlands of South Africa and Zimbabwe. As the country braces for another deluge, Chissano has asked the international community for much-needed assistance.
"We thank you for all the help we have received but we are asking for more. Our people have nothing and the world can do more," he said.
Several countries pledged $13.5 million at emergency talks in Geneva, but Mozambique's government said it will need $65 million to rebuild flood-stricken areas. "This is a time of great need," said Salim Ahmed Salim, Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity, reiterating President Chissano's call for aid. "People's hopes are shattered and their capacities are weakened. The government of Mozambique is doing its utmost to meet this challenge, but it does need urgent and substantial assistance."
A C-17 aircraft from the United States arrived Wednesday carrying plastic sheeting for 10,000 families, more than 6,000 water jugs, blankets, and high energy biscuits. The United States will also send two helicopters. The U.S. aircraft, together with the four large helicopters Britain plans to send, will effectively double the small South African fleet that has been carrying out rescues for days.
The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Socieities (IFRC) is also contributing five helicopters to the search and rescue efforts as well as food, shelter, and clean water to flood victims. The American Red Cross has contributed $100,000 to the IFRC effort so far and hopes to raise more. Two American Red Cross workers will travel to Mozambique this weekend to assess the situation and determine how best to direct resources.
Aid Workers Concerned About Disease
After spending a third night clinging for safety as floodwaters lapped at their feet, thousands of people are now at risk of dehydration and hunger. Most people trapped near the inundated village of Lionde have not eaten since a wall of water surged through the already-flooded Gaza province on Sunday.
Many of those who have been rescued and evacuated to makeshift camps are suffering a lack of food, clean water, and medical supplies. At least 350 people are known to have died across southern Africa since the flooding began but the actual toll is estimated to be in the thousands. Aid workers fear that number will rise sharply as water-borne diseases--such as cholera, malaria, and dysentery--spread through the camps.
"We are not giving any estimates of fatalities now," Ian McLeod, emergency coordinator for the U.N. Children's Fund told Reuters. "But based on what we are seeing on the ground, at the end of the crisis, the deaths are likely to run into the thousands because of the problem of sickness and disease due to a large number of populations concentrated together."
Those who survived the floods and are not trapped by rising waters are slowly making their way around the swollen Limpopo River to a refugee camp set up in the southern village of Chaquelane, 100 miles northeast of Maputo. The camp population grew from 2,000 to 15,000 people in less than 48 hours and the number keeps growing. With little clean drinking water, many of the children are suffering from severe diarrhea and aid workers are trying to persuade the refugees to move on to larger towns where there is more food and water.
But most are too exhausted or traumatized to continue their journey and many are reluctant to stray too far from their flooded villages. During the panicked evacuation, many parents were separated from their children, and relief agencies are setting up programs to reunite families.
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