Mozambique Floods Feb 2003

Situation Report
Originally published
At a glance

Many children in Mozambique find themselves trapped in a cycle of poverty with inadequate access to basic services in health and education, prone to food insecurity and vulnerable to being abused and exploited by adults.abuse. Despite achievements made in the early 1990s in economic growth and political stability in the early 1990s, Mozambique remains one of the poorest countries in the world. 2000 and 2001 were marked by two major major floods which hit the central and southern regions of the country. Weak infrastructure and economic stagnation made these areas the country's most vulnerable.

This emergency report concentrates on the work of Save the Children UK (SC UK)'s response flooding in the past two years.

Current situation


Mozambique is beset by increases in urban crime, low levels of agricultural production, poor health conditions, high levels of illiteracy, environmental degradation, inefficient market structures and poor road networks. 60% of the population - 8 million people - is currently estimated to be living below the poverty line. All of these factors combined mean that the population is extremely vulnerable to external "shocks".

This year a severe drought that has hit the whole of the Southern Africa region has left 650,000 Mozambicans facing food shortages. The majority of these people are living in the central and southern parts of the country - including many who were also the most badly affected by the floods in 2000 and 2001.

Key issues for children

Some 5 million children live in poverty in Mozambique. Almost half of the country's children are chronically malnourished. Poverty, war and more recently HIV/AIDS have contributed to the break-up of families. Some 3,000 children are estimated to be living on the streets of the capital Maputo.

There are wide disparities in facilities and staffing of health, education and welfare services around the country. Gaining access to services is particularly difficult for children in rural areas.

Health services are in desperate need of improvement. Mozambique's infant and child mortality rates (145 per 1000 live births) and maternal mortality rates remain amongst the highest in the world. Infant mortality is highest in rural areas where poverty is highest and resources are most lacking.

Since 1992 progress has been achieved in rebuilding schools and the number of pupils has increased at all levels, particularly in primary schools. However, the overall quality of education remains poor, and only 30% of 6-12 year olds attend school. Girls are less likely to enrol than boys and are more likely to drop out of school, with approximately 20% of women and children likely to complete any level of formal education. Overall, 60% of the population is illiterate, 74% of them women, 44% men.1

It is estimated that about 12% of the population is HIV-positive (this figure is slightly higher in the Central Region - at 16.5%)2. The spread of HIV/AIDS has already had a profound effect on all sections of society, children in particular. There are increasing numbers of child-headed households, orphans and children caring for elders with HIV/AIDS. The number of women infected is growing, as is the transmission of the virus from mother to child. Tackling the issue of HIV/AIDS is perhaps the biggest challenge facing the future development of Mozambique and its children.



Twenty years of war and recurring natural disasters have taken their toll on Mozambique. However after a political settlement in 1992 and new efforts to rehabilitate and reconstruct, the country began to experience a period of stability and economic growth. In early 2000 and again in 2001 however, the country was hit by severe floods, which affected about a quarter of the population and destroyed much of its infrastructure.

In February 2000 came the worst floods in half a century following unusually heavy rains and a tropical storm. Particularly affected were provinces in the south, including Inhambane. In February 2001 there was further flooding predominantly on the flood plains of the lower Zambezi River. In May 2001 it was reported that approximately 44,000 peasant-farming families had been affected with the loss of 27,000 hectares of crops. Roads and bridges were washed away isolating people from much needed assistance.

The economy has continued to grow although at a lower rate and mostly to the benefit of a Maputo-based elite. The last two years have seen a widening gap develop between the relatively prosperous southern tip of the country and the extreme poverty of the majority of the rest of it.

Even before the floods, the Mozambican Ministry of Finance and Planning reported that an estimated two thirds of the population was living in absolute poverty.

Most of the poor live on smallholdings with insecure property rights. The very poorest have little or no land and rely on other forms of livelihood mainly small-scale trading or wage labour in cash crop production.

Impact on children

Children, who make up just over 50% of Mozambique's population, were severely affected by the floods. Disruption to economies in the southern and central provinces plunged families deeper into extreme poverty. Hundreds of thousands of children became reliant on food aid.

Children's education was disrupted in flood-stricken areas with hundreds of schools and educational institutions damaged. The quality and continuity of education was disrupted, and in many communities, an increase in family poverty led to more children working rather than attending school.

Many health facilities were damaged and more than one million people immediately lost access to conventional healthcare. The national immunisation programme was disrupted by the suspension of health services in affected rural areas and the damage to equipment such as refrigerators vital to keep vaccines effective. Sanitation and clean water facilities in many areas were contaminated. Meanwhile, diarrhoeal diseases and malaria increased among children.

Save the Children's response


Severe floods affecting the southern and central regions of Mozambique in early 2000 provoked a rapid humanitarian response, notably from the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) agencies.


SC UK's response focussed on the poorly served northern districts of Inhambane Province. The response was divided into three stages: (i) saving lives; (ii) family reunification, and support to families with material support in the form of food and non-food assistance including blankets, shelter materials, cooking pots and utensils; (iii) infrastructure support, including road repairs and replacing health and education facilities.

SC UK replaced three health facilities in Inhambane - two district health centres and one rural health centre. The organisation also provided material support to the regional health centre in Vilankulos, thus strengthening referral lines up from the rural and district health facilities to regional levels. In addition, SC UK supplied and installed CODAN radios with follow up monitoring and service, which has strengthened communications between health facilities in the province. The organisations also helped in the construction of 36 new classrooms and two boarding schools from 2000-01.

Achievements made in infrastructure rehabilitation work gave SC UK a valued profile amongst International agencies active in the area as well as earning the organisation the high regard of local authorities and communities.

Emergency response work in Inhambane has been followed by more detailed analysis of ongoing security issues faced by especially vulnerable communities in the province.


In early 2001 flooding badly affected the province of Zambezia. SC UK has had a regular development programme operating in Zambezia for more than a decade. Following the floods all efforts were redirected to address the damage. Zambezia's response capacity has been enhanced by the secondment of national and UK appointed staff from other parts of the Mozambique country programme, including those with previous flood emergency experience in Inhambane. This experience has meant that all SC UK staff now have a better understanding of how to respond in an emergency.

SC UK was initially involved in food distribution in Mopeia. SC UK set up and managed 15 temporary accommodation centres to house the 36,000 people (about half of the population) who were displaced. The organisation distributed food to people sheltering in these accommodation centres for over 6 months. SC UK also engaged in education about HIV prevention at all food distributions in the area, and health kits were distributed to outlying health posts.

Temporary schools were set up in most of these accommodation centres, and community mobilisation groups were established with the centres' residents.

In Morrumbala district, SCUK supported local government with logistical and administrative support during the emergency.

Another key aspect of the emergency response work in Zambezia province was SC UK's communications project. This project was an attempt to support the expansion of two-way communications by radio between administrative outposts in rural areas and their district headquarters.

Emergency preparedness

In a relatively short period of time, SC UK managed to make considerable strides in its emergency preparedness work. With the onset of floods, the organisation's long term development programme had to refocus its priorities to emergency response. This highlighted the need for better emergency preparedness and was followed by a period of intensive preparedness planning. The plans are now updated regularly to reflect the changing external environment and SC UK has a better understanding of the likely threats which communities, the country and the region face. Specific achievements in emergency preparedness planning include:

  • SC UK has produced a logistics manual with details of suppliers of essential food and non-food items, transport plans, contents of locally appropriate emergency kits and temporary school kits.

  • SC UK donated items to provincial government to help them maintain a small stock of temporary shelter materials, two boats, and basic non-food items.

  • SC UK is ensuring that essential administrative and logistic systems and staff capacity is maintained at a level adequate to respond rapidly and effectively to future emergencies.

  • SC UK participates at national level in country-wide vulnerability assessments relating to the 2002-03 drought.
Emergency Preparedness now extends across all sectors of SC UK's work in Mozambique and is more child focused, with specific attention to issues of the protection of girls and boys during emergencies. Maintenance of communication and early warning systems is vital and is being undertaken through the expansion of the communications radio network, which makes it possible for government to transmit weather warnings to isolated and vulnerable communities.


SC UK's HIV/AIDS programme has become even more significant in the aftermath of the numerous natural disasters of the past few years. The emphasis is on working with communities, in particular children and young people, to identify local solutions to the HIV/AIDS problem.

In Zambezia province SC UK is part of the technical advisory team to the Provincial AIDS Commission. Participatory workshops have been conducted in ten rural and semi-urban communities. An HIV/AIDS component was introduced into the response to the flooding in Mopeia distict, through a local young people's theatre group, which has been trained in issues relating to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV/AIDS.

In the long term SC UK hopes to be able to monitor and assess behaviour changes as a result of a greater awareness of the link between HIV and sexual activity, gender and power relations with the children, young people and adults targeted by its programmes.


In Inhambane SC UK has provided equipment to furnish the health posts that were set up by the organisation. It has also set up HF radios in strategic rural health posts to aid communication with the District and Provincial Directorates for communities to use in the event of a disaster.

SC UK has developed the capacity to undertake rapid food security assessment and nutritional surveillance and strengthened its logistics capacity.


In response to floods in Inhambane SC UK worked to ensure access and continuity of lessons and other educational processes to maintain and improve the quality of teaching and learning through the provision of temporary school facilities, teaching materials and equipment. Thirty temporary schools were established and provided with adequate teaching materials. Thirty-six new classrooms and two boarding schools were constructed over the year 2000/2001. SC UK facilitated training in emergency preparedness for officials, teachers and communities. All communities were actively involved in producing action plans in case of further flooding. A rapid child to child research exercise took place to gather information that would enable the organisation to understand the impacts of the floods and cyclone as experienced and perceived by the children. There was a marked increase in the enrolment figures in each of the targeted schools in 2001.

In Zambezia an emergency education programme was put in place in response to the flooding in 2001.

Save the Children in Mozambique

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 one of the least developed provinces 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 1997, 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.


1 UNDP Human Development Index Country Report 2001
2 Government Statistics 2002