Southern Africa Flood Emergency: UNICEF Emergency Update 29 Mar 2000 - Mozambique

Number of flood victims in need of humanitarian assistance: 950,000.
UNICEF-assisted vaccination campaigns underway in all major camps. So far, about 45,000 children aged nine months to five years have been vaccinated against measles and over 15,000 pregnant women against tetanus.

Rains continue to fall in most of the country. Most rivers remain above critical and alert levels.

Floods have swept away more than 620 miles of roads. FAO estimates nearly 356,000 acres of crops have been destroyed or seriously damaged.

After a month of cyclones, tropical storms, and flood waves measuring up to 16 feet, Mozambique is experiencing its worst natural disaster in a century.

From February 4-7, Maputo Province, located on the southeastern coast of Mozambique, received almost 18 inches of rain during the first cyclone, Connie. On the heels of Connie came Cyclones Eline and Gloria, followed by severe tropical storms. Although some rivers have begun to recede, there are warnings of further storms and floods. To make matters worse, the country's traditional rainy season which regularly produces floods in the northern cities of Beira and Quelimane began on schedule in mid-March.

An estimated 800,000 to 1 million people have lost their homes and are now in need of urgent humanitarian relief. 190,000 of these are children under five. The official death toll has reached 492.

The World Food Program (WFP) estimates 650,000 people who have lost homes and farmland will need to be fed for the next six months. WFP is also reporting that Mozambican farmers are anxious to return to their homes to plant seeds, which must be in the ground before April if they are to make the next harvest in September.

Ten million people in southern Africa are now at risk of cholera, malaria, and other water-borne diseases, according to the health ministries of Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.

Madagascar is also in a national emergency. After Cyclone Gloria swamped Madagascar on March 2, UNICEF has estimated that flooding has affected 550,000 people half of them children. Nearly 150 people have been killed, according to preliminary figures.

At the request of the Government of Madagascar, UNICEF has airlifted more than 15 tons of relief aid, including 236 health kits containing emergency medical supplies to meet the needs of 120,000 people for three months; 10.5 tons of high-energy biscuits for malnourished children; 47,000 blankets; and radio equipment which is crucial to coordinating the relief effort. The UNICEF team in Madagascar has also procured 700,000 water purification tablets.

As rescue operations are coming to a close, the main priorities have become providing food, shelter, clean water, and health care.

"Our chief concern right now is the threat of disease," said UNICEF Representative Mark Stirling in Maputo. "There is a serious sanitation problem, which is increasing the risk of cholera outbreaks. In addition, a number of cases of diarrhea and malaria have already been reported."

UNICEF is working to prevent outbreaks of diarrhea, cholera, malaria, measles, and meningitis; provide clean water; support emergency measures to ensure that children's access to education is not interrupted; and assist in the resettlement of families displaced by the floods.

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 medical supplies to Maputo. Working with WFP, UNICEF has also helped provide over 129 metric tons of high-protein biscuits for children and adults suffering from malnutrition.