MSF in Mozambique: Southern Africa floods devastate Mozambique

Situation Report
Originally published
Southern Africa suffers worst storms since 1966
Southern Africa has been deluged with torrential rains throughout the past week. Rivers have burst their banks and the sunsequent flooding has claimed at least 70 lives. Roads, bridges and homes have been swept away by the flood waters.

According to the National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC), the situation in the north - especially in Gaza and Inhambane provinces - is expected to be deteriorating due to the heavy rains and the increase of the water levels of rivers coming from South Africa. An evacuation plan for residents in those areas is being drawn up. The water level of the Limpopo River has reached a critical level.

Furthermore there is the possibility that a cyclone wll hit the region in the next few days.

Flooding of this magnitude last occurred in 1966.

Heavy rains that fell between February 4-7 have brought the Incomati, Umbeluzi and Sabie rivers to their highest levels ever recorded causing extensive damage especially in and around the cities of Maputo and Matola. Homes and thousands of acres of land have also been destroyed rendering thousands of people homeless.

The most affected areas are in Maputo province (Matutuine, Manhica, Magude and Marracuene) and Gaza province (Chibuto, Chokwe and Mabalane). Most of these areas are having problems with the supply of clean drinking water after pumps and water purification plants were swept away by floods.

A huge floodwave hit the district of Chokwe last weekend, damaging the fertile rice and maize growing farmland of the Limpopo Valley in the southern province of Gaza.

In Maputo City, most of the suburbs have been flooded. About 100,000 people - or 10% of city population - were affected. In some areas, the water is receding but big pools are remaining.

If large rainfalls start again soon, the situation will worsen. The supply of drinking water has been partially cut and the outbreak of cholera and other epidemics is feared. According to Dr Baretto (Mozambique Ministry of Health), malaria cases may double this year - climbing to 4 million cases.

In Matola, 25km away, an estimated 100,000 people had been affected by the floods. It said that 2,000 people were being housed at 11 sites in the city. In addition to these, there are 15,000 to 20,000 persons at home without food, according to a City Council report.

This is the rainy season in Southern Africa, and it is anticipated that more heavy rains may reach South Africa in the next days (February 18-27). All of the reservoirs in South Africa are now at 100% capacity so the excess flow from rivers running from South Africa would cause further flooding in Mozambique.

The water levels of Save, Gorongosa and Ripembe rivers running through Inhambane and Sofala provinces (the north of Maputo province) have already increased.

First response of MSF and aid agencies to the flood areas

Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) has already provided medical teams, medical supplies, water tanks and logistic kits to several sites in the capital Maputo and Matola. MSF currently has nine people in the field (one doctor, three nurses, two watsan, three technician).

In addition, MSF has been:

  • assessing the situation
  • conducting field visits in the affected regions of Gaza province
  • giving support in drinking water supplies and medical aid in 13 centers in Maputo and five centers in Matola.
A transit center, with drinking water supply and sanitation, for 5,000 displaced people has been installed in an old cashew-enterprise, near Maputo.

CTC's (cholera treatment center) with 30 beds each - two in Maputo and two in Matola - are currently in preparation. Vaccination may start in the coming days in our collective centers. So far, more than 10 tones of sanitation material, medicines and water tanks have been sent by cargo to Mozambique. MSF has received $25,000 from USAID for emergency assistance.

Red Cross/Red Crescent branches in Maputo city and Maputo province, in close collaboration with IFRC and under the coordination of MSF, have been actively involved from the onset. The main areas of intervention will be:

  • water treatment and purification
  • mobilisation of the population from high risk areas to safer zones
  • carrying out public health education campaigns
  • provision of emergency first-aid treatment
  • supply and distribution of relief items
  • provision of tracing services
  • and offering psychological support to the affected persons.
UNESCO said that it would monitor the communications requirements to improve information access to the affected populations.

WFP has received a request from the Maputo Provincial Government to provide food aid to 54,644 persons in Maputo province (Boane 1,190, Manhica 30,000, Moamba 12,254, Matutuine 3,600, Marracuene 1,000, Magude 3,100 and Namaacha 3,500 persons). In Matola, WFP is distributing food to 2,000 persons being accommodated in 11 sites.

UNICEF will provide medical kits/medicaments to respond to malaria and diarrhoea problems.

National and International response to floods

The Mozambique government has launched an official appeal for US$2.7-million for emergency humanitarian assistance. The Government said that it estimated it would need approximately US$15million to fully rehabilitate the flood-stricken areas.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) sent an assessment team to assist the Resident Coordinator and the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) with information gathering, reporting and appeal contribution management. OCHA said that it had released US$30,000 from the OCHA Emergency grant.

The United States embassy in Maputo said that it had given US$25,000 to help support flood relief efforts. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of Norway, Kjell Magne Bondevik, announced last week a donation of US $100,000 to support flood victims. The United Kingdom's Department of International Development has pledged US$30,000 for emergency relief efforts.

Neighbouring South Africa, according to OCHA, provided two cargo helicopters to help rescue people stranded by rising flood waters. South Africa is also providing various non-food items such as tents, blankets and kitchen utensils.