Mozambique

Relief Agencies target Mozambique's youngest flood victims

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News and Press Release
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Written by Cynthia Long, Managing Editor, DisasterRelief.org
More heavy rains drenched thousands of Mozambique flood refugees living in 74 temporary camps, most of them sleeping out in the open in the middle of the deluge. Disease still stalks the refugees, especially the children, many of whom lost touch with their parents during the evacuation and are living at the camps unaccompanied.

Thousands of children are suffering from diarrhea and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has launched an immunization program to help protect them against measles and meningitis. The threat of disease is serious, and though cholera has so far been kept at bay, thousands of people - a large portion of them children - contracted malaria from swarms of mosquitos breeding in stagnant floodwaters.

To escape the crowded camps and return to their homes and property, refugees are traveling back to their villages, some of them hoping to find lost family members. Sadly, not all of them will find their relatives alive.

In Chokwe, about 200 kilometers from the Mozambican capital, there is widespread devastation. "There is both the impression of the flood as well as the vandalism," Eliseu da Silva Machava, Southern Mozambique Program Coordinator for the Ecumenical Committee for Social Development (CEDES), told Action By Churches Together (ACT)

He described broken bank windows, looted shops and homes, and a hotel where he used to stay that is now ruined beyond recognition.

When a swiftly moving wall of water flooded Chokwè, there had been a big party in the town, and a number of residents were away from their houses. When the flood hit, few had time to go back home to find their children, some who may have died in the disaster.

More than forty bodies have been found in the flood wreckage of Chokwe. Many others are presumed to have washed out to sea and will never be recovered. Workers put the bodies in bags and leave them where they were found so returning families can know the fate of their loved ones and provide them suitable burial when the soil dries.

Reuniting Families in Camps

To help reunite children and parents, aid workers in a camp sheltering more than 45,000 flood victims are taking snapshots of unaccompanied children. Scores of young people at the Chaquelane refugee camp, the largest of the camps, were separated from their parents or guardians during the flooding. During the rescue efforts, the most vulnerable were taken first and families were therefore split up.

In the camp, the children told reporters about their experiences. A young refugee named Louis said he couldn't remember what happened during the floods, only that he was brought to the camp with his uncle. Sarifia says she and her sister know their father is alive but their mother is missing, and Elise boarded a helicopter while her grandmother stayed behind.

"I think in this search-and-rescue operation we could probably learn some lessons," said Annie Foster, an aid worker with Save the Children. "One of them might be to make attempts not to separate mothers from their children, and just train pilots a bit to take a mother with their child rather than just take a child.

"But on the whole," Foster continued, "we've got to be very thankful that the helicopters were there."

Recognizing the need to reunite children with their families, the Spanish Red Cross has plans to begin assisting the Mozambique Red Cross to prepare for family tracing activities and a delegate has arrived from Pretoria, South Africa to offer additional assistance.

The flooding has displaced a quarter of a million people, and the death toll from the floods could reach into the thousands. "The major thrust now is the supply by air and water of food and equipment for ensuring clean drinking water as well as the movement of personnel and supplies to address health needs," said Fred Eckhard, U.N. spokesman. "One hundred tons of aid is being distributed daily. Shelter is also a priority."

To help provide shelter and relief supplies, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) launched an appeal for about $6.8 million, which will assist 85,000 beneficiaries for seven months.

The American Red Cross (ARC) has committed $100,000 to the relief effort, $30,000 of which will go to Mozambique and $70,000 to surrounding affected countries of Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa. A four-member ARC team was deployed to the region to help distribute relief supplies and to assess the affected areas to determine what the immdediate needs are.

To prevent disease among the youngest flood refugees, the U.N. said Tuesday it plans to start an immunization campaign in Mozambique against waterborne diseases aimed at children under 5 and women of childbearing age, said Lyn Geldof, a spokeswoman for UNICEF.

And while relief agencies provide them with food, water and medical care, many of the frightened children wait patiently for their parents to come and find them in the camps.

DisasterRelief.org is a unique partnership between the American Red Cross, IBM and CNN dedicated to providing information about disasters and their relief operations worldwide. The three-year-old website is a leading disaster news source and also serves as a conduit for those wishing to donate to disaster relief operations around the globe through the international Red Cross movement.

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How You Can Help

To help the victims of international disasters, you may make a secure online credit card donation with the American Red Cross International Response Fund. Money from the International Response Fund is given to countries most in need of assistance. You can also contribute directly to the Mozambique relief effort by calling 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. To earmark your check for this disaster, write Mozambique in the memo section.

All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. To help the victims of Mozambique, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013.

The American Red Cross is dedicated to helping make families and communities safer at home and around the world. The Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organization that annually provides almost half the nation's blood supply, trains nearly 12 million people in vital life-saving skills, mobilizes relief to victims in more than 60,000 disasters nationwide, provides direct health services to 2.5 million people, assists international disaster and conflict victims in more than 20 countries, and transmits more than 1.4 million emergency messages to members of the Armed Forces and their families. If you would like information on Red Cross services and programs please contact your local Red Cross.

=A9 Copyright 2000, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.

DisasterRelief
DisasterRelief.org is a unique partnership between the American Red Cross, IBM and CNN dedicated to providing information about disasters and their relief operations worldwide. The three-year-old website is a leading disaster news source and also serves as a conduit for those wishing to donate to disaster relief operations around the globe through the international Red Cross movement. American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. The American Red Cross is dedicated to helping make families and communities safer at home and around the world. The Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organization that annually provides almost half the nation's blood supply, trains nearly 12 million people in vital life-saving skills, mobilizes relief to victims in more than 60,000 disasters nationwide, provides direct health services to 2.5 million people, assists international disaster and conflict victims in more than 20 countries, and transmits more than 1.4 million emergency messages to members of the Armed Forces and their families. If you would like information on Red Cross services and programs please contact your local Red Cross. © Copyright, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.