Mozambique floods situation report 23 Mar 2000

Situation Report
Originally published
Accumulation of rainfall from February 4-7 in Maputo Province reached 17.9 inches -- compared to 23.4 inches from September 1998 to January 1999.
Although rainfall figures have not been reported for Gaza Province, previous reports described parts of Gaza as resembling a sea, as a series of flood waves, some reaching up to 86 feet high, descended upon the province from the Limpopo River.

As of March 1, all major rivers in southern Mozambique remain flooded but waters are slowly receding. The Limpopo River, source of the worst flooding, peaked on February 26 at 36 feet. As of March 3, it had fallen to 23 feet.

Some key roads in Mozambique have been re-opened and aid is now being distributed by truck. Many main roads in rural areas remain submerged.

Eight hundred thousand to 1 million people have lost their homes and are in need of immediate aid, including an estimated 190,000 children under five years old. According to the Government of Mozambique, the current death toll is 492 people.

An estimated 250,000 people in Mozambique are seeking shelter in 97 camps. In Maputo Province, 30,000 flood victims are being housed in approximately 12 shelters. In the capital city, Maputo, approximately 4,000 displaced people are seeking shelter in four schools and a factory. The largest refugee camp is in Chaquelane, about 100 miles northeast of Maputo, where an estimated 57,000 people are reported to be seeking safety and shelter. Most camps are in desperate need of necessities including food and water. Malaria is rampant in most. In Chaquelane, at least 300 malaria cases are seen daily.

Massive amounts of fertile farmland and crops have been destroyed in the provinces of Maputo, Gaza, and Inhambane. Government authorities estimate that over 311,000 planted acres have been destroyed. Affected crops include maize, beans, rice, sweet potatoes, peanuts, and vegetables. More than 50,000 head of cattle have died. Estimates indicate that 62,600 farming households have been devastated by the flooding.

As of March 14, over 45,000 people have been rescued by air. Evacuations and rescues in rural areas are on going, particularly north of Chokwe (located in Gaza, about 150 miles north of Maputo) and in many other small villages on the northern side of the Limpopo River. The river burst its banks on February 27, leaving all of Chokwe underwater. South African military pilots were able to rescue over 2,000 people, including 944 children, from Chokwe.

UNICEF reports estimate that 30 to 40 percent of children in parts of Inhambane Province have been separated from their parents. UNICEF is working with the Government to ensure that all unaccompanied children are registered. In the Chaquelane camp, located in Gaza Province, 58 out of 110 unaccompanied children have been reunited with their families.

Since the beginning of the disaster, most of the affected population has had little food or safe drinking water. Cases of severe and moderate malnutrition among children in the affected areas are increasing.

Due to a lack of clean water and sanitation, cases of communicable diseases and outbreaks of malaria, cholera, and dysentery have significantly increased. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that 800,000 people in the region are at risk of cholera and malaria. In one hospital in Maputo Province alone, at least 500 people have malaria symptoms.

Wells and sanitation facilities are underwater and have sustained serious damage in many parts of the country.

So far, a total of 141 schools have been destroyed or are in need of major repair. Numerous hospitals and clinics have sustained major damage and are suffering power failures.

The National De-mining Commission has expressed concern about landmines, which have been dislodged by torrential floods. Since 1980, an estimated 9,000 people have been victims of landmines in Mozambique, according to the United Nations. A million anti-personnel landmines remain in the ground from the country's 16- year civil war, which came to a negotiated end in 1992. In 1996 and 1997, 43 percent of the country's landmine victims were children and women, according to UNICEF.

Cyclones Eline and Connie have also affected neighboring countries, including Botswana, Madagascar, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

In South Africa, it is estimated that floods have taken the lives of 76 people. In Botswana, approximately 98,000 people are displaced or homeless and nine people are reported dead. Botswana's capital, Gaborone, has been cut off from the rest of the country due to collapsed bridges and roads.

In Zimbabwe, the government has estimated that 96,000 people are in need of assistance, including 17,000 children under the age of five. Over 3,000 homes have been destroyed. Crops worth over $67 million have been completely destroyed and over 11,000 heads of cattle have been killed. The government has appealed for $21.2 million in aid, including boats, food, medicine, and tents.

UNICEF is helping to ensure that children in Zimbabwe receive emergency health care, education, and access to clean water and sanitation.

UNICEF is also assisting in an emergency assessment of Madagascar, which was swamped by Cyclone Gloria on March 2. Rescue operations are on going and it has been estimated that 600,000 people are displaced, including 130,000 children. Although floodwaters are receding, landslides have prevented many roads from re-opening.

Cyclones Eline and Gloria killed nearly 150 people in Madagascar. Communications and electricity in the country are almost completely out and only 22 percent of the affected areas have access to health care. The cyclones are likely to increase a prolonged cholera epidemic, threatening thousands more with contracting the water-borne disease.

Cash crops in Madagascar such as coffee, fruit, and rice have been wiped out.

"We are very concerned about the immediate threat of malnutrition," said Dr. Sergio Soro, speaking from the UNICEF office in Antananarivo. "If our assessments prove valid across the island, the loss of the rice crop could be devastating; it could mean serious malnutrition for hundreds of thousands of people. Malnutrition will make people more vulnerable to illness, exacerbating serious health problems. And the loss of cash crops like bananas and coffee takes away people's livelihood at the same time. The floods here have created a spiral of disaster. It's just awful."

UNICEF's Response

Main priorities are providing food supplementation; essential health care, particularly preventing outbreaks of dangerous diseases such as cholera and malaria; water and sanitation services; and resuming school. In the rush for safe ground, children have been separated from their families.

Working with the Mozambican Ministry of Social Welfare, UNICEF is helping to ensure that separated children are registered at shelters and reunited with their parents. So far, at least 500 children have been recorded as separated.

On February 20, UNICEF provided assistance to several air evacuation operations. UNICEF has provided over 16,000 gallons of aviation fuel for use by the South African National Defense Force (SANDF), which has been carrying out most of the air operations. So far, seven helicopters and three small aircraft are in use by the Mozambique Defense Forces and SANDF. In addition, two planes and a helicopter have been provided by the French Government and the U.S. Agency for International Development for use by the World Food Program (WFP).

UNICEF rented a helicopter on March 2 to distribute over 4,400 pounds of medical and drug supplies to areas north of the Limpopo River. UNICEF has also provided two 4 x 4 vehicles to assist in distribution and relief efforts in Gaza Province. Four more vehicles have been ordered for use in Maputo Province.


UNICEF is helping supply and distribute 1,250 rolls of plastic sheeting to serve as shelter for 20,000 families, as well as 60,000 blankets. UNICEF has also helped provide 120 tents for use as health centers and food storage facilities.


UNICEF is working in coordination with the Mozambican Ministry of Health, the Red Cross, and non-governmental organizations to attend to the immediate health care needs of flood victims. On February 16, UNICEF delivered a 39 ton shipment of essential medicines, including 500,000 sachets of oral rehydration salts (which prevents and treats diarrheal dehydration) and other medical supplies to Maputo. The following day, another 1,102 pounds of urgently needed medical supplies were sent by helicopter to the isolated town of Chokwe in Gaza Province. As of March 2, medical supplies have been distributed to all areas north of the Limpopo River. Ten thousand treated mosquito nets have been ordered for use in hospitals and health centers. UNICEF is working to make sure that towns, villages, and camps have necessary medicines to treat malaria. Mosquitoes have become resistant to the most common medication, chloroquine, so Fansidar, another anti-malarial drug, is being used.

Under the leadership of the Ministry of Health, UNICEF is participating in a three-month malaria control plan. UNICEF will assist in developing a system for early diagnosis and treatment of malaria, mosquito population control (using safe methods of insecticide spraying), and distributing bed nets and mosquito repellents to families.

Many health centers have been damaged or destroyed. Health care facilities need to be prepared for possible epidemics of malaria, cholera, and dysentery. In Sofala Province and Maputo, 1,810 cases of cholera (leading to 11 deaths) have so far been reported. Malaria and diarrhea remain the major causes of death for flood survivors. UNICEF is also providing funds to provide fuel to the Xai-Xai hospital generator.

Other health concerns that need to be addressed include the treatment and prevention of pneumonia and the prevention of vaccine-preventable diseases such as meningitis and measles. Sixty thousand auto-destruct syringes (syringes that cannot be re-used and further prevent transmission of hepatitis and HIV) are scheduled to arrive soon so that vaccination campaigns may begin. Cold chain equipment, including cold boxes (similar to coolers) which are used to transport vaccines for immunization campaigns, has been distributed to preserve the vaccines. The first round of vaccinations are to begin on March 12, targeting 275,000 children and adults for meningitis, 75,000 women of childbearing age (14-45 years old) for maternal/neonatal tetanus immunizations, 60,000 children under five for measles, and Vitamin A supplements for 48,000 children. The initial vaccination campaign will take place in the Limpopo Valley.

There is also concern regarding tuberculosis. Over 80 TB patients are being cared for in various hospitals.

UNICEF is assisting in the production of communication and training materials for health workers in the treatment and prevention of malaria.

The WHO estimates that 15,300 pregnant women, including 4,600 who are expected to deliver within the next three months, require special medical attention to ensure safe delivery.

Water and Sanitation:

As the lead United Nations agency for the provision and rehabilitation of water and sanitation services in Mozambique, UNICEF has delivered over 11,000 pounds of soap and 6,613 pounds of chlorine. UNICEF is helping to build latrines and repair wells in Gaza Province, including 28 that have been repaired in Chokwe. In the Chaquelane camp, construction of 355 latrines is in progress. On February 22, the following supplies were sent to Gaza: 7,000 collapsible jerrycans (each can holds about 2.6 gallons of drinking water and is easy to carry in emergency situations), 20 collapsible water bladders (each bladder can hold up to 1,320 gallons of water), and six water tankers. Later this month, more deliveries are expected, including 52,000 water purification tablets, two back-up generators for water supply facilities, and several water pumps.

To prevent outbreaks of water-borne diseases, UNICEF is also providing support for personal hygiene education campaigns and communication/awareness initiatives, including the printing and distribution of malaria and cholera pamphlets. Distribution of hygiene packs (designed for use by individual families, each pack contains soap, one jerrycan, one bucket, and a cholera awareness pamphlet) for 50,000 families will begin on March 18 in Chibuto and Macia. To facilitate proper sanitation practices and waste disposal in temporary shelters, UNICEF will help provide shovels, buckets, and protective clothing. Further assistance will be provided to help disinfect and chlorinate household water wells.


Working with WFP, UNICEF is helping to provide over 129 metric tons of high-protein biscuits to children and adults suffering from malnutrition. Therapeutic feeding centers are being set up in various camps, including the hard-hit town of Maciene. Training of health care workers on the special needs of severely malnourished children is being conducted. High-protein biscuits will be provided to pregnant and nursing mothers. Additionally, food packages containing maize, beans, oil, and sugar that will feed 8,000 families for two weeks are on order.


UNICEF will assist in the reconstruction and repair of destroyed and damaged school buildings. Ten tons of emergency education materials have been airlifted from Maputo to Chibuto, in Gaza. The supplies include 103,000 exercise books, 48,000 pencils, 40,000 pens, 95 blackboards, 30 sets of school maps, and 100 soccer balls. The supplies will benefit at least 79 schools. Teacher training sessions are also being readied for more than 1,000 teachers in Maputo, Gaza, and Inhambane.


UNICEF is preparing to support the rehabilitation of farms. Seeds, basic farming tools, equipment, and emergency veterinary assistance for surviving cattle will also be provided.