Mozambique Emergency Bulletin 3: 07 Mar 2000

Report
from Save the Children
Published on 07 Mar 2000
At a glance
  • in northern Inhambane, thousands children have been forced to leave their homes and many have been separated from their families
  • lack of clean water and unsanitary conditions are leading to outbreaks of cholera and malaria; young children will be worst affected
  • children's lives have been seriously disrupted; access the health care and education has been severely limited by the floods.
  • Save the Children is distributing household kits for 20,000 people
  • Save the Children is supporting public health activities in the camps at Pande and Save, and running food kitchens with extra rations for children
  • Save the Children is assisting the government's efforts to reunite separated children with their families and to prevent further separation
  • A food security assessment which will look at immediate food needs and medium-term requirements will be underway this week
  • Save the Children is working closely with the Mozambican authorities as well as national and international agencies
Summary

Save the Children is distributing supplies to camps in Pande and Save, designated 'safe' areas where hundreds of families have been evacuated to, and advising on public health in these camps. The organisation is also working to quickly re-unite separated chidren with their parents and is organising food for children and adults. In the UK, a joint-agency Disasters Emergency Committee appeal has been launched. As of 7 March, it had raised £13m; funds will go to the humanitarian response programmes of Save the Children and other agencies.

Floodwaters in Mozambique are now receeding, and the rescue mission is nearly over. Unless further flooding occurs, the relief effort can move into the second phase: focusing on people's immediate needs for food, health care and clean water. As not all families are staying in camps and reception centes, supplies are also being sent direct to villages. The provinces worst affected by the floods are Gaza, Maputo and the northern part of Inhambane.

Background

Evacuation

South African Defence Forces have rescued over 12,000 people over the last week from rooftops and trees. Other countries have now joined in the final stage of the rescue operation. Aid agencies estimate that no more than 600 people now remain stranded. Attentions are now being turned to the next phase: delivering food, water and medical supplies.

So far the official death toll is 200 although aid officials and the government say that the actual number is bound to be higher as many evacuees say that their family members and friends were washed away in the floodwaters. This will become more apparent as flood waters recede, exposing bodies. Overall, the government estimates that more than 1 million people have been affected by the floods, losing either their homes or their livelihoods.

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 was compounded by Tropical Storm Eline, which swept in from the Indian Ocean later in the month.

The floodwaters are now receding allowing some people to return to their mud-filled homes. Reports suggest that cyclone Gloria, which is heading towards Mozambique, may have dissipated. However, further heavy rainfall is still predicted this week and may affect the worst hit areas again.

Debt

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. Budgetary constraints also mean the Mozambique is unable to invest in emergency preparedness planning, which would allow it to respond better to future natural disasters.

The government of Mozambique has appealed for $250 million to meet humanitarian needs arising from the floods. As of 7 March, $100 million had been pledged by donors.

Key issues affecting children

Children are always the worst-affected in emergency situations, and Mozambique is no exception. According to UNICEF, out of the 1 million people affected by the floods, about 180,000 are children under the age of five; and out of the 230,000 people who have lost their homes and been displaced, about 46,000 are children younger than 5 years.

Separation

Save the Children is concerned that children became separated from their families during the evacuation process. In addition, many children became separated as families fled the flood area. The Mozambican government estimates that of the 1500 people in camps at Save, Pande and Mahave (all in northern Inhambane), 200 are separated children. The numbers of children orphaned by the floods are unknown.

Food

Food remains a pressing problem. The focus now is on getting food supplies to survivors as they return to their villages. Flood damage to roads and bridges means that the delivery of food and other aid is very difficult; most deliveries have to be made by air.

Reports suggest that malnutrition among children may soon rise. Many were already in the early stages of malnutrition when the floods hit, as food is traditionally short at this time of year. Their situation of those who have been stranded without food and water for several days is likely to have deteriorated.

Health

Many areas have no safe drinking water or sanitation facilities. There are high levels of malaria and diarrhoea. It is not clear how many people have died from malaria - as Malaria is endemic in Mozambique, resistance may be high.

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.

Education

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

Relief

Save the Children is distributing relief assistance itself and through government and partner organisations. The relief includes clothes for children and emergency kits for 20,000 people containing plastic sheeting, buckets, cooking utensils, crockery and blankets. These kits are being distributed in badly-affected areas of northern Inhambane. Each kit cost approximately £70. Save the Children has also been receiving support from Alliance partners, in particular Save the Children organisations in Sweden and Norway.

Separation

Save the Children is supporting the Ministry of Women and Social Welfare (MICAS), which is in charge of the work with separated children, to try to prevent separation and ensure that separated children are quickly re-united with their parents. A Save the Children Emergencies Advisor is liaising with MICAS to set-up a family tracing programme in Inhambane province.

Health

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. This advisor has taken a lead role in assisting with water sanitation, waste disposal and other aspects of public health at the reception centres in Pande and Save.

Food aid

Save the Children has been running communal kitchens in the Pande and Save centres, helping to prevent malnutrition by distributing extra food for children in a form that is easy for them to eat (high-energy milk and porridge). Save the Children is also assisting with the ware-housing of food and non-food items. A food security advisor will arrive in Mozambique this week to assess the scale of food shortages and the need for further food assistance.

Mozambique's long-term prospects for food security are bleak. A report from the World Food Programme (WFP) released this week suggests that there have been near-total crop losses in the provinces of Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane, and that some of the country's most productive areas have been completely submerged. Preliminary estimates indicate that at least 150, 000 hectares of food crops have been lost in the five affected provinces. Livestock losses for the three southern provinces are provisionally estimated at 30 percent of the total cattle population. Extensive losses of small animals, such as goats and chickens, are also reported. Food losses will be compounded by loss of food and seed stocks.

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.