Mozambique floods: Flight to Mozambique

Mozambique Emergency Programme Manager Rob Smith's report on the eve of the first flight out of emergency equipment
22 FEBRUARY: At noon tomorrow I will fly out with 40 tons equipment from a small airport in Kent to help flood victims in Mozambique. As emergency programme manager I will be responsible for co-ordinating Oxfam's response which is now predominately in the Limpopo Valley, 100km north of the capital Maputo.

Mozambique is reeling from the worst flood in 50 years. Over 800,000 people have been affected and an estimated 300,000 are in need of emergency aid. The Limpopo Valley is one of the worst affected regions with the great river bursting its banks and submerging homes, land and livelihoods. Forced to flee their homes with little or nothing, people have gathered in groups in community buildings such as schools and community centres, and in camps. In all of these places, there is an urgent need for clean, safe drinking water and proper sanitation in order to prevent the widespread outbreak of disease. In the camps there are as little as one hand water pump for 12,000 people, a chronic shortage of shelter and high incidences of diarrhoea, malaria and reports of dysentery.

On the plane I will have water and sanitation equipment. There is also clothing, blankets and plastic sheeting to provide protection. Oxfam has already distributed clothing, cooking and household equipment to families that have lost everything.

I will be joining a team of two engineers, a health and hygiene promoter and a logistician. As well as the temporary water and sanitation work, Oxfam will also be focusing on decontaminating and repairing existing wells and water supplies that have been hit by the flood waters.

With Cyclone Eline still poised over the country and Cyclone Felicia predicted for later this week, the threat of further flooding faces Mozambique. The great tragedy is that as one of the poorest countries in the world recovering from a long and bloody conflict, Mozambique had made remarkable progress in the last couple of years. Now the fear is that much of this could be swept away with the floods.