Mozambique Emergency Bulletin 2: 29 Feb 2000

Situation Report
Originally published

at a glance

  • many families are trapped on roofs and treetops; an evacuation effort is underway, but the limited number of helicopters means that progress is slow
  • children are being separated from their parents during the evacuation and as families flee the floodwaters
  • lack of clean water and unsanitary conditions could lead to outbreaks of disease
  • food supplies are scarce and there are already reports of malnutrition among children
  • 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. We are also advising the Ministry of Health response to the emergency
  • SCF is supporting the government’s efforts to prevent children being separated from their families and to quickly reunite them
  • 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 immediate priority is to rescue those cut-off by floodwaters and to meet their immediate needs for food, health care and clean water. However, the long-term impact of the floods on a desperately poor country, where seven out of ten people already live on less than one dollar a day, is likely to be immense. The provinces worst affected by the floods are Maputo, Gaza, and the northern part of Inhambane.

Save the Children is distributing supplies in Pande, a ‘safe’ area that many families have been evacuated to, and working with other agencies to set up a camp there. The organisation is also working to quickly re-unite separated chidren with their parents and is planning a food security assessment.



Widespread flooding in southern Mozambique has left tens of thousands of families cut off by flood-waters and in a desperate condition. The World Food Programme estimates that 55,000 people need to be evacuated in southern Gaza and that over 35,000 need to be moved in the Save river area. A helicopter assessment of northern Inhambane by Save the Children suggests that more than 7,000 people are trapped on trees and roof-tops. Many have been there for several days, without food and water.

By the end of this week (3rd March) there should be 14 helicopters in the country. However, even this number is inadequate – each helicopter can only carry 25 people at a time.

So far 70 deaths have been reported but the final death toll is likely to be much higher. Many of the evacuees say that their family members and friends have been washed away in the floodwaters. Overall, the government estimates that more than 1 millions people have been affected by the floods, losing either their homes or their livelihoods.

The floodwaters are expected to rise further in coming days as heavy rains continue in Zimbabwe and South Africa, whose rivers flow into Mozambique. In Zimbabwe, the authorities plan to open the floodgates of the over-flowing Kariba dam, which will further swell floodwaters into Mozambique.

The floods began in early February when Mozambique received 455 mm of rain in three days, 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 later in the month.


Mozambique’s debt service payments are equivalent to $1.4 million each week. Compared to this, the amount of money pledged for emergency relief is small. Save the Children is calling for an immediate halt to debt service payments and for Mozambique to be treated as a special case for debt relief.

Mozambique is already in line for some debt relief under the World Bank’s HIPC (Highly-Indebted Poor Countries) scheme. It is important that creditors do more than just give Mozambique the debt relief already earmarked for June. Mozambique would still be spending $60 million a year in debt payments once this ‘relief’ has been granted, compared to an annual budget of just $20 million for primary health care and $32 million for primary education.

The government of Mozambique has appealed for $65 million to meet humanitarian needs arising from the floods. Of this, $13.6 million will be spent by United Nations agencies on the relief effort.

Key issues affecting children

Children are always the 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.


Save the Children is concerned that children are becoming separated from their families during the evacuation process. The relief effort is prioritising the rescue of children, which means that they are often evacuated without their parents. In addition, children are likely to become separated as families flee the flood area. Preliminary surveys by Save the Children suggest that 50-60 per cent of children at ‘safe’ sites are unaccompanied. This figure is massive - in most emergencies, 3-5 per cent of children are separated.

Responding to the needs of separated children is a sensitive process. They are vulnerable and require special attention, but services set up specifically for them may encourage ‘voluntary’ separation - as desperate parents believe their children will be better off in centres. The best approach is to work in the early stages of a crisis to prevent separation.


Food remains a pressing problem. Damage to roads and bridges means that many people cannot be reached, and all food drops have been cancelled as the helicopters focus on evacuation.

In urban areas, food prices are rising rapidly and people may soon be threatened by serious food shortages. Reports suggest that there is already an increase in the number of cases of severe and moderate malnutrition among children.


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. Cases of malaria and cholera have also been reported.

Mozambique’s infant and child mortality rates are 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 by any outbreaks of disease resulting from the floods.


Many schools have been closed down by the floods - or 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


Save the Children is distributing relief assistance itself and 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 northern Inhambane. Each kit cost approximately £70.


Save the Children is also playing a key role in supporting and co-ordinating the relief effort in Inhambane. The organisation is assisting with the evacuation by truck of people from Inhambane to the safe area at Pande and on 28th February it charted a plane to transport over 2 tonnes of supplies (donated by other agencies) to the area. Save the Children is working with other international agencies to prepare the site at Pande for up to 10,000 displaced people.


Some very basic procedures can help to prevent children becoming separated from their parents and ensure that they are quickly reunited. These include keeping records of children’s names and where they are evacuated from, and ensuring that young children keep hold of possessions that might help to identify them. When children are moved from one site to another, it is very important that their records go with them. Save the Children is supporting the Ministry of Social Welfare, which is in charge of the work with separated children, to try and ensure that these measures are in place in all affected areas.


Save the Children has contributed 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.

food aid

A food security advisor will arrive in Mozambique this weekend to assess the scale of food shortages and the need for further food assistance. The advisor will also look at the specific needs of children.

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 provided 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.