Mozambique Emergency Bulletin 1: 24 Feb 2000

At a glance

  • Food - many families are cut-off by the floodwaters and dependent on food dropped by air; there are already reports of malnutrition among children
  • Water - safe water remains an urgent problem
  • Unsanitary conditions are causing an increase in communicable illnesses such as diarrhoea; malaria is also a threat
  • Livelihoods - at least 800,000 have lost their homes and/or their livelihoods in the floods
  • Relief - SCF is distributing 2,500 basic household kits for 15,000 people; these include cooking utensils and plastic sheeting
  • Health - SCF is supplying the provincial government with £3,000 worth of medical supplies, enough for 30,000 people for 3 months
  • Support to the government - SCF has seconded a health advisor to the Ministry of Health to help with its emergency response strategy
  • Save the Children is working closely with the Mozambican authorities as well as national and international agencies


Mozambique is suffering its worst flood in half a century following unusually heavy rains and a tropical storm. The impact of this damage on a desperately poor country, where seven out of ten people already live on less than one dollar a day, is immense - now and in the long term.

Save the Children is distributing emergency kits to families in the worst affect areas of Maputo and Inhambane, and suppling essential medicines to provincial government authorities. We are also supporting the government’s national response effort by seconding a health advisor to the Ministry of Health.


Floods - Widespread flooding in southern Mozambique is having a devastating humanitarian impact - an estimated 300,000 people have lost their homes and a further 500,000 have lost their livelihoods. Thousands remain cut-off by flood waters. More than 70 people have been killed. The provinces most affected by the floods are Maputo, Gaza, and the northern part of Inhambane.

In a three-day period from 4-7 February 2000, Mozambique received 455 mm of rain, almost as much as it gets during the entire rainy season. This downpour came on top of seasonal flooding and has been compounded by Tropical Storm Eline, which swept in from the Indian Ocean. Heavy rainfall in neighbouring South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Swaziland further exacerbated the situation as rivers in these countries feed reservoirs in Mozambique.

Food is the most pressing problem at present. Damage to roads and bridges means that many people cannot be reached. They are dependent on food dropped by helicopter. In urban areas, food prices are rising rapidly and poorest people may soon be threatened by serious food shortages.

When 16 years of civil war came to an end in 1992, Mozambique began to rebuild its economy and infrastructure. The country was soon a success story - last year, Mozambique had the fastest growing economy in the world. The flood may have set back this development by 5 years.

The government estimates that in Maputo and Gaza alone, two-thirds of cultivated land - 100,000 hectares - has been lost. A futher 50,000 hectares may have been lost in other southern provinces. There has also been significant damage to infrastructure and housing.

The government of Mozambique has appealed for $65 million to meet humanitarian needs. Of this, $13.6 million will be spent by United Nations agencies.

Key issues affecting children

Children are always worst-affected in emergency situations, and Mozambique is no exception. Children under five years old account for roughly 20 per cent of those affected, equivalent to 160,000 children. Approximately 50 per cent, 400,000, are under the age of 15 years.

Food - Young children are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition. In the worst affected areas, access to food and safe drinking water has been severely restricted since the floods began. Reports suggest that there is already an increase in the number of cases of severe and moderate malnutrition among children.

Health - Many areas have no safe drinking water or sanitation facilities. Already, the number of cases of water-borne and communicable diseases, including diarrhoea has increased. Malaria also poses a threat, as stagnant pools of water are ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes. In a normal year, up to 2 million people in Mozambique contract Malaria; the number is likely to be much higher this year.

Mozambique’s infant and child mortality rates are already among the worst in the world, with 13 per cent of babies dying before their first birthday and 20 per cent before the age of five. Children will be severely affected any outbreaks of disease resulting from the floods.

Education - Many schools have been temporarily shut as a result of the floods - they are being used to provide temporary shelter to those who have lost their homes. Others have been washed away in the floodwaters.

Even before the floods hit, only 30 per cent of 6 to 12-year-olds attended school and less than 30 per cent of the children who started primary education completed it. The situation is particularly bad in rural areas, where there are fewer schools.

SCF response

Relief - Save the Children will distribute relief assistance through partner organisations - the Mozambique Red Cross, the Scouts, and a number of children’s organisations.

The relief includes clothes for children and 2,500 emergency kits (for 15,000 people) containing plastic sheeting, buckets, cooking utensils, crockery and blankets. These kits will be sourced locally for cost effectiveness, and distributed in badly-affected areas on the outskirts of Maputo and in the province of Inhambane. Each kit cost approximately £70.

Health - Save the Children has also contributed £3,000 worth of essential medicines to the provincial government in Inhambane. These include oral rehydration salts (used to treat diarrhoea), basic antibiotics, water purification tablets and treatments for gastro-enteritis. The medicines are enough for 30,000 people for 3 months.

Save the Children has seconded a Health Advisor to the Ministry of Health to assist in the government’s national response and help develop plans aimed at reducing the spread of communicable diseases. Save the Children already has a close relationship with the Ministry, having provided support for staff training for many years.

Save the Children UK (SC UK) started work in Mozambique in 1984, placing technical advisors in the Ministry of Health when few donors were willing to provide this type of support. Over the next ten years SC UK provide technical assistance in epidemiology, nutrition, logistics immunisation, health information systems and information technology.

Subsequently, the programme went on to work in Zambezia, the most populated and least developed province in the country. SC UK rebuilt roads, bridges and schools, distributed relief items, and improved water and sanitation. It also supported livelihood projects and social-welfare programmes, including community-based care of disabled children. In 1994, the programme expanded to cover social welfare and education work in Inhambane province.

Today, the focus of SC UK’s long-term development work is improving the quality and quantity of basic services, advocating children’s rights, and responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It maintains a capacity to respond to emergencies.