Mozambique is highly vulnerable to disasters caused by climatic irregularities. In recent years it has seen frequent droughts, floods and cyclones and these have had a negative impact on the country's economic and social development. The most significant of these disasters were the 1981-1984, 1991-1992 and 1994-1995 droughts, and the floods of 1977-1978, 1985 and 1988.
However, none of these phenomena have been as destructive as abrupt, especially in the central and southern provinces, as the country's recent floods aggravated by the simultaneous occurrence of Cyclone Eline.
The watersheds of nine of the rivers in Mozambique affected by heavy rainfall also extend upstream into a number of different countries: Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Swaziland, which were also hit by floods and were forced to open the sluice gates of their dams.
From December 1999 there was heavy rainfall in both Mozambique and the neighbouring countries. On the 27th and 28th unprecedented rainfall of a kind never before recorded, caused serious damage in Maputo town. In the first days of February, further heavy rainfall in the Maputo region and in neighbouring countries caused the Umbeluzi and Incomati rivers to reach levels not seen since 1937, and caused the Limpopo River to exceed all recorded levels, completely flooding the town of Chokwe and the lower part of Xai-Xai town on 12 February.
On 22 February, when the situation was still critical, the country was hit by Cyclone Eline that devastated in particular the provinces of Inhambane, Sofala and Manica. In addition to heavy direct damage in Mozambique, the cyclone quickly moved into neighbouring Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana, where it caused prolonged heavy rainfall, producing a new and rapid rise in the water levels of the rivers flowing into Mozambique. This meant that from 25 February the Limpopo, Save and Buzi river basins suffered the most extensive floods in fifty years. More recently, from 5 to 8 April the coastal areas of Nampula and Zambezia were hit by Cyclone Hudah.
2. Emergency Response
The government reacted to the disaster with the limited resources at its disposal - the National Fire Brigade, the Air Force and the Navy. It was supported by the immediate and invaluable intervention of many countries and organisations. Civil society was also involved in a variety of ways, from individual contributions to participation by both national and foreign non-governmental organisations, religious communities, associations and companies.
The scale of the disaster that befell the country was such that national resources alone were unable to cope, both during the immediate rescue phase and later, dealing with the subsequent emergency situation.
Consequently, on 10 February the Government of Mozambique launched its first emergency appeal that was subsequently regularly updated by teams from the Technical Council and the United Nations specialists assigned to the Flood Impact Coordination and Evaluation Unit.
The Government's immediate actions were to disburse its own funds to finance relief, rescue and humanitarian assistance. It also strengthened the early warning system at the threat of new rises in water levels, and established reception centres for displaced people (101 centres housing some 450,000 people). In the health field it mobilised all its resources for epidemiological prevention and surveillance.
In order to facilitate the international community's collaboration in rescue and emergency assistance activities, the Government took special measures to facilitate the entry of goods and specialist staff for emergency activities and relief teams.
A number of United Nations agencies participated in the government appeal and subsequently provided assistance in the fields of food, shelter, health, water, sanitation, education, communications and coordination. The United Nations response comprised two phases: relief operations in February and March, and the immediate re-establishment of essential health and social services. Other specialist emergency organisations were also involved, such as the Mozambique Red Cross and a large number of NGOs.
The substantial resources involved in the relief operations - 59 aircraft and a large number of boats - made it possible to save over 50,000 people and deliver over seven thousand tons of emergency supplies to inaccessible areas.
The current phase of the emergency should end in August with the conclusion of rescue operations and the establishment of camps for displaced people who receive food and health assistance,
The emergency operation continues to rely heavily on air support and this will continue until the end of April. However, if emergency assistance is to continue after this date and reach those who need it, there is an urgent need to rapidly repair land communications.
The emergency situation, where the affected population is entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance, will gradually end over the next few months. It must be replaced by the gradual introduction of the reconstruction phase.
3. Disaster Impact
3.1. The geographical impact
The combination of the floods and the tropical depression Eline affected large areas of the districts of Mossurize and Sussundenga (Manica province), Buzi and Chibabava (Sofala province), Govuro, Vilanculos and Inharrime (Inhambane province), Massangena, Pafuri, Massingir, Caniçado, Chibuto, Chokwe and Xai-Xai (Gaza province), Magude, Moamba, Manhiça, Marracuene, Boane, Matola and Matutuine (Maputo province) and Maputo city. The areas included in the main river basins in this vast region - Save, Buzi, Limpopo, Incomati and Umbeluzi - were particularly affected. Here there was severe destruction in the following towns, hamlets and localities: Buzi, in the basin of the same river; Machanga and Nova Mambone near the mouth of the River Save; Chokwe, Guijá, and Xai-Xai in the Limpopo River basin, which were virtually submerged; Magude and Xinavane along the River Limpopo; and the towns of Nacala and Maputo, among others (see the map of the affected areas over).
Cyclone Hudah was particularly intense in the districts of Angoche, Moma (Nampula province), Pebane and Maganja da Costa (Zambezia province).
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