On Friday March 3, Peter Thesin, an MSF
Communications officer, accompanied the MSF teams in their coverage of
Chokwe, Chaquelane and Macia regions. The MSF team was using a helicopter
to deliver drugs and supplies to the various areas where MSF is either
active or are supporting operations. MSF remains the only NGO active in
From all accounts, the first phase of rescue is being decreased as the water levels have fallen dramatically. Efforts now are moving towards caring for the 300,000 people who have been displaced from their home due to the recent flooding, considered the worst to hit Mozambique in the past century.
Water levels in the city of Chokwe have declined drastically. Within the city of Chokwe, people are able to walk but the entire surface area is covered in thick mud left as residue after the flooding. In the surrounding area, though there is still extensive water coverage, it is no longer as deep and people are able to climb down to the ground and walk. Many, though, remain exhausted after spending days, if not weeks, on trees and rooftops and are often too weak for the walk to safety.
At its peak, the water there was as high as 2.5m in depth. Now the city is mostly deep mud and shallow water. Boats do not have enough depth for movement and the mud makes walking extremely difficult.
In the region surrounding Chokwe, flood waters are still a constant, though the levels are falling. From the helicopter, one of the longer term staff members could see the water levels had fallen, but for Peter it was still very impressive. Water was everywhere - though there are points of higher land creeping through the water surface.
The flooding is also still quite extensive and presses on for kilometers. You can spot the route of a highway in the water by the telephone poles that protrude from the flood water. It was completely covered to the horizon.
It seems the pressure for helicopters to rescue people from trees and rooftops has almost ended. However the need for the helicopters remains to provide reconnaissance to the flooded areas and bring food and water to the displaced populations and assist in transporting populations within the country.
People are fleeing Chokwe, heading out of town. They have learned a hard lesson after being caught in the second flood and now are desperate to get out of town and to a safe place as soon as possible in case a third session of storms and flooding does come. Peter saw ten trucks full of people leave town. They all take the main road out and then simply arrive at Chaquelane. There seems to be no real effort to tell people where to go. Seemingly there is a working collective understanding that safety is that way.
People in Chokwe are very afraid that there may be more rain and some areas in the city are already completely deserted. There is some comfort in this as, should the rains come, there is far less chance of the same level of danger to the population there.
For those who are injured, there are health posts in the city. Next to the Chokwe hospital, there is one of two health posts in Chokwe. MSF is assisting both with in both stocks and providing care. The Chokwe hospital is now drenched in mud and completely out of service. It used to be run by a collection of Spanish nuns.
There is one remaining nun running the health post and MSF is providing her with basic medical supplies and our doctor there is assisting her for serious care cases. Patients identified for evacuation are taken to Macia by truck.
With the ebbing flood waters, there have already been dead bodies. Reports are that there are 25 bodies already and 11 of these came from Chokwe City. As most of the outlying area is still flooded, there is a clear indication that more bodies will be found as the water recedes.
During the flooding last week, the MSF teams were trying to move the weak and infirmed to safe locations on rooftops. They took a pregnant woman from the hospital and put her on a nearby roof with a group of others locals. It was impossible to get back for a couple of days but when they did, the woman had a set of twins. The babies are safe and sound and healthy.
Chaquelane is currently acting as a camp for approximately 30,000 people. MSF is hoping the camp will be only a transit camp and that the permanent facility will be on higher, safer ground in Macia.
The camp is on the main road from Chokwe, so it is natural part of the journey for someone fleeing for safer territory. There are three health posts in Chaquelane and a high demand. When Peter visited, there were three queues with 10-15 people per queue.
The Macia facility is developing quickly and well. MSF teams arrived on Sunday the camp is well cared for and has clean water. There are tents installed and health post to care for the resident population as well as latrines and a plentiful supply of clean water.
There are four permanent MSF staffers there as well - one nurse and three logisticians.
One of the camps is currently housing 6,000 people. The second only has 2,000. However there is enough space there to absorb the entire 30,000 Chaquelane present population.
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