Katarina Toll Velasquez, leader of the UNDAC team dispatched by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told IRIN on Thursday the priorities of assisting tens of thousands of flood victims, were to rescue people trapped, transport them to safe ground, and ensure their basic needs were provided for.
"We are talking at this stage of basic survival needs - food, shelter, clean water, sanitation, and the infrastructure," Toll Velasquez said. "Then we are looking ahead at what is the biggest fear, the outbreak of health epidemics. We have been expecting health problems, and these have already started. Within the next two to three weeks, the full scale will become more apparent. Thus there is an urgent need for contingency planning."
The UNDAC team arrived in Mozambique at the weekend to support the UN Resident Coordinator, the UN Disaster Management Team, humanitarian agencies, NGOs, and the Mozambique authorities. With support from the UNDAC team, she said, the government of Mozambique has established a coordination centre for the relief effort in relation to flooding. It is also supporting the government and the UN community in preparing a United Nations Inter-Agency Appeal.
She praised the assistance provided by South African helicopters conducting rescue and distribution missions in remote areas, but said donor governments had to provide further funding for the costly air operation. The cost could not be borne by Pretoria alone, she said, "especially in view of the fact that they are having to cope with the floods across the border in their own country".
There is also an urgent need to identify roads and bridges which are not under water and undertake emergency repair, so that access to people in need of humanitarian assistance could be improved and costs for the relief operation reduced.
In the meantime, she said OCHA, with funding from Italy and Norway, has flown an aircraft to Mozambique from Pisa in Italy with a cargo relief supplies for national rescue and relief operations, including inflatable boats. The flight arrived on Thursday in Maputo. "We have a received a delivery of five boats, but more are needed," she said.
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