Mozambique

Mozambique: Flood update

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JOHANNESBURG, 9 March (IRIN) - As river levels in Mozambique's flood plains begin to fall back and road access to stricken areas improves, humanitarian aircraft on Thursday were checking reports that up to 20,000 people were stranded near the lower Limpopo town of Mabalane in southern Mozambique.
The government disaster management authority, the Instituto Nacional de Gestao das Calamidades (INGC) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that up to 20,000 people had been found stranded 50 km outside the Gaza Province town of Mabalane. The INGC said they were mostly located in small settlements beyond the town of Chokwe.

"These people desperately need help as so far no assistance has arrived. It should be possible for American helicopters to reach these people," an INGC report said. OCHA said a major effort involving UNICEF, WHO and WFP was underway to bring relief to the people who have reportedly been isolated for the past 25 days.

Coordination

In its latest situation report, OCHA said that since 6 March Mozambique Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao had assumed chairmanship of the main daily meeting at the coordination centre in the capital, Maputo.

"A growing concern is that the provincial authorities do not have sufficient means to resume their functions effectively, as their offices were washed away in the flooding," OCHA said. "The government stated that the provincial governments in the five provinces of Sofala, Manica, Inhambane, Gaza and Maputo should be supported to respond to the situation effectively. UNDP is now considering a project to assist these provincial authorities and build up their capacity."

With 74 accommodation centres for the hundreds of thousands of flood victims now operational in Mozambique, it said the International office of Migration (IOM), UNDP and OCHA were establishing a database for tracking humanitarian resources in Mozambique.

Aid and rescue flights

The INGC reported that so far, a total of 1,520 mt of food relief had been delivered nationwide since the beginning of the crisis. Meanwhile, 20 mt of high energy biscuits have been delivered to the second city, Beira, and four more flights to the coastal town of Vilankulos and Maputo, itself, were scheduled.

A U.S. Hercules C-130 cargo plane took off from Maputo airport on Thursday to inspect a dam on the Limpopo River near the town of Massingir close to the South African border. The dam's water levels were a cause of major concern, news reports quoted U.S. military officials as saying.

Two U.S. helicopters left South Africa early on Thursday for Beira to join German, Malawian and South African forces in disbursing aid to tens of thousands of displaced people.

Health

The report cited a lack of coordination in the health sector. It also cited concern that many aid groups had arrived in Mozambique and gone straight to the flood zones without informing the authorities of where they were going or what they planned to do.

"The need for NGO or other medical teams arriving in the country to be fairly self-sufficient has been stressed by the minister of foreign affairs. The government of Mozambique does not currently have the capacity to provide logistical support to all these groups," the report said.

The diseases most frequently reported remain the country's biggest killer, malaria, as well as cholera, skin and respiratory ailments. Despite the number of cholera cases reported in Maputo and the Beira province of Sofala, the INGC said there was no cholera epidemic in Mozambique. It said a list of the most urgently needed drugs was currently being drawn up. Mostly urgently needed were chloroquine and paracetamol.

Water and sanitation

It said new water tanks were opened in Chokwe in the lower Limpopo valley, where an evaluation of existing boreholes had found them usable once their pumps had been cleaned., and water can be drawn from these once the pumps have been cleaned.

Immediate priorities in this sector include the completion of emergency water and sanitation supplies both in Chokwe and the nearby Gaza provincial capital of Xai-Xai. Evaluations were still to be completed in the provinces of Inhambane, Manica and Sofala. A computerised monitoring system to check water and sanitation also had to be brought on line. In the meantime, the distribution of water purification tablets had to continue.

Logistics

Aircraft loading equipment has arrived at Mavalane airport, Maputo, while the city's port authority has donated the use of a fork-lift truck.

Donors

The Portuguese embassy announced a US $155 million aid package, of which US $150 million will come from cancellation of debts owed by Mozambique. It said US $1 million would be channelled through the UN to finance the joint UN-government appeal, with the rest towards rescue operations - US $1 million for NGO projects, and US $2 million for emergency relief activities.

Switzerland has allocated US $2.1 million, which is being allocated to help fund WFP food aid, UNICEF, and various local and international NGOs.

The Canadian government said it was allocating an additional US $10 million in aid to the former Portuguese colony. Maria Minna, Canada's federal minister for international cooperation, said on Wednesday the additional US $10 million earmarked by Ottawa for aid to Mozambique would bring the Canadian International Development Agency's total contribution to US $11.6 million. Two Canadian Forces Airbus planes are expected to leave Trenton, Ontario, for Mozambique in the next few days carrying relief and construction materials such as water purification equipment, picks and shovels, plastic sheeting, blankets and soap.

"With much of the rescue efforts completed, we must now focus on ensuring that the people of Mozambique have clean water, medicine and shelter to begin rebuilding their lives," she said in a statement.

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