Southern Africa: Floods report 23 Mar 2000

Report
from The New Humanitarian
Published on 23 Mar 2000
JOHANNESBURG, 23 March (IRIN) - The UN launched a new appeal for flood victims in Mozambique where villagers in the south were warned to leave low-lying areas along the Limpopo as the river is expected to surge over its banks for the second time this month.
A team from the US Army Corps of Engineers is working with the governments of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia to check the structural integrity of all major dams along the region's other great waterway, the Zambezi River.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) announced the establishment of a disaster response task force to complete assessments and provide periodic reports on the impacts of the flooding on crop production and food security throughout southern Africa. The task force will be led by the Food, Agriculture, natural resources, and Rural Development Coordination Unit's regional early warning office based in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Officials said the regional offices of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), WFP, and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS), will assist the SADC in its assessments.

MOZAMBIQUE

A new appeal

On Wednesday, the Mozambican government in collaboration with UN agencies launched a fresh appeal to donors for US $102 million, updating an appeal launched on 23 February.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the funds were being sought for 650,000 flood victims in the provinces of Maputo, Gaza, Sofala, Inhambane, Manica and Tete for six months until the end of August.

"The overall requirements are US $160,535,650, and the government of Mozambique has so far received contributions amounting to US $58,691,546," OCHA said in a statement. OCHA said it is prepared to serve as a channel for contributions. Full details of the appeal, and how contributions can be made, can be seen at http://www.reliefweb.int

OCHA said the main purpose of the new appeal was to assist affected populations with basic needs through the rainy season, which ends in March, and to help them reintegrate into their towns and villages and return to normal life.

"An update of the appeal launched in February was indeed necessary, as the appeal was designed to attend to the immediate needs for 300,000 persons," OCHA said. "It did not envisage the deterioration over the weekend of 26-27 February of the situation aggravated by the impact of the cyclones on Mozambique and its neighbours."

WFP said it was seeking US $8.4 million, as part of the overall appeal, for air transport to deliver food and non-food items to flood victims through April. "WFP's top priority remains reaching and feeding an estimated 650,000 people, both the internally displaced living in 121 camps throughout the south and centre of Mozambique and those who have returned to their homes," WFP said in a statement. Georgia Shaver, WFP's Representative in Mozambique, added: "Over the next month, we will continue to rely on aircraft as the main lifeline for reaching hundreds of thousands of flood victims."

Also as part of the appeal, WHO said it was seeking US $1,968,300, UNICEF US $1,364,375 and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) US $931,750 for assistance in the health sector.

"This is on top of funds raised following the original appeal and is based on a better understanding of the true extent of the damage," WFP said in a statement. "Even now many areas still remain without access to safe drinking water, adequate health care and nutrition, and other basic services."

The flood waters

On Wednesday, the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) reported intermittent rainfall in the southern provinces over the previous 24 hours. The weather outlook for the second city of Beira forecast partly cloudy skies through 25 March.

"Although some water levels are increasing due to dam releases and intense rainfall in neighbouring countries, generally, water levels in Mozambique are receding," the latest USAID report said. Overall, showers were expected to subside by the end of the week.

The government disaster agency, the Instituto Nacional de Gestao de Calamidades (INGC), said it would provide floodwater and weather updates on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Health

The WHO said repairs to hospitals and health centres, immunisation campaigns and disease prevention programmes are now underway through a health action plan co-ordinated by WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA in collaboration with the health ministry.

"It is estimated that 50 rural and urban health centres and four referral hospitals were seriously damaged or destroyed in the Gaza, Maputo, Sofala and Inhambane Provinces," WHO said. "As well as rebuilding the country's health infrastructure the action plan includes work to prevent outbreaks of cholera and malaria and other diseases.

Mozambique's Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao, when he launched the new appeal to donors on Wednesday, emphasised the threats of malaria and diarrhoea diseases as a result of the floods.

The WHO Representative for Mozambique, Dr Carlos Tiny, said malaria remained the main cause of death and illness in flood-affected areas with children and pregnant women most at risk.

"There is also a serious risk of cholera outbreaks," he said. "Other threats are measles, meningitis and dysentery. Respiratory infections, skin diseases, conjunctivitis and diarrhoea are already a problem in the camps." He said the impact of malaria, inadequate diet and diarrhoea, as well as sheer exhaustion from displacement, had combined to increase the already high rates of moderate and severe malnutrition among young children.

"To experience the sudden destruction of a secure environment creates complex health needs within communities. We are working with the government and other partner agencies to ensure we meet those needs," Tiny said.

The USAID report said the government was urgently seeking the assistance of relief agencies to set up a health centre in the town of Buzi near Beira because the general hospital there was no longer operational.

Water and sanitation

During a March 17 water/sanitation meeting, participants discussed the tremendous need for additional latrines in accommodation centres, as well as possible response efforts. Oxfam reported there is a need to rehabilitate latrines in affected areas before internally displaced persons (IDPs) in accommodation centres begin returning home.

Food and agriculture

Relief agencies have delivered more than 3,600 mt of food to beneficiary communities since February 11. Approximately half of the recent deliveries have been made overland from staging points in Beira and Maputo. Helicopters transported the remainder.

WFP's main priority, it said, was to increase the proportion of road deliveries. According to WFP, 60 percent of the food being delivered in Mozambique is being purchased locally. According to survey data provided by the ministry of agriculture and rural development (MARD), households in the five affected provinces have an average of 6.4 persons. Ninety-two percent of households in these areas harvest maize and 51 percent beans. Only 18% of households have both low-lying and upland fields.

The affected populations

The government has estimated that roughly two million people have been affected by flooding, including 650,000 IDPs. The 650,000 figure cited by most agencies is an estimate based upon census data conducted in 1997, combined with information on which areas were flooded. This figure is also used by WFP to calculate emergency food beneficiaries. Of those displaced, 463,000 are living in 121 accommodation centres and an unknown number are in isolated areas.

According to government figures, an additional 300,000-400,000 people are seriously affected and in need of medical and other non-food assistance. An additional 900,000 people are indirectly affected, according to the figures.

Relief agencies have said the death toll, currently near 500, is expected to rise after the waters recede.

Donor activities

The US defence department said improvements in road and rail systems have led to a marked decrease in the need for American air assistance. However, helicopter support from Beira is still required in the short term.

OCHA, USAID/DART, and WFP are currently seeking to contract out civilian helicopters to replace defence department helicopter support.

The US defence department said its last helicopter supply distribution missions will be linked to the arrival of civilian helicopters.

British military helicopters in Mozambique are reportedly beginning a phased withdrawal. Britain is leaving 10 other helicopters in the country for relief operations.

The New Zealand Government has provided over US $200,000 for relief efforts in Mozambique. The funds will support aerial demining surveillance and reconstruction efforts.

The European Union (EU) has approved US $90 million for disaster response for Mozambique, while another US $1.4 million is in process, for a total value of US $162 million.

Japan has provided a $4.65 million grant to support bridge rehabilitation and food aid.

The Dutch Development Cooperation has appropriated US $8.7 million for aid for Mozambique.

According to OCHA, two major coordination meetings for sustainable recovery and vulnerability reduction have been scheduled in Rome next month and in Paris in June, at dates to be announced.

ZIMBABWE

The USAID Mission in the capital Harare reported on Thursday that there were sufficient supplies of relief commodities in the country to provide for needs. But it said, logistical constraints such as lack of road access, fuel, and vehicles were hindering delivery and distribution of essential relief supplies, as well as comprehensive damage and needs assessments.

The damage and the numbers affected

The Commercial Farmers Union reported significant damage to coffee crops, and the Cotton Producers Association said up to 28,000 hectares, worth some US $3.75 million, of this year's crop may be destroyed.

UN reports continue to estimate that 96,000 people are in need of immediate assistance, and that 20,000 of these persons have lost their homes. Some 500,000 people are less directly affected. Most displaced people are beginning to return home to start the process of rebuilding.

Coordination

Three key groups are currently coordinating the disaster management operation. They include UNDP, the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (NANGO), and the government Department of Civil Protection.

NANGO, an umbrella organisation for local NGOs, has identified the rehabilitation of homes, clinics, and schools, and sanitation facilities as the highest priorities. NANGO is in the process of mapping the location of affected populations and intends to establish a trust for the collection of funds to enable NGOs to carry out projects in affected communities.

According to OCHA, the UN Disaster Management Team (DMT) recently deployed three teams to the affected areas in order to assist civil protection teams comprised of district authorities, NGOs, and representatives from the private sector in assessments and data collection.

Preliminary findings suggest that about 900 persons need attention in Beitbridge district in Matebeleland South Province. This district is facing problems with poor water and sanitation services and there is also a risk of malaria outbreak due to stagnant water.

OCHA reported that an additional 100 or more families were homeless in Chirumhanzu district in Midlands Province, where about 1,000 families were affected. In Manicaland, 45 persons are confirmed dead, and an estimated 3,000 people are homeless. A World Bank team is visiting Manicaland province to assess how they could assist with the rehabilitation of communications in the affected districts. The team is working with the UNDMT in this effort.

Shortages

The UNDMT team noted that 80,000 litres of diesel and 20,000 litres of fuel are required in Chipinge. An acute shortage of medicines was also observed.

"As people begin to return home, the response priority is shifting from more immediate emergency relief requirements to medium to longer-term infrastructure rehabilitation to facilitate access to affected areas for provision of relief commodities and community reconstruction activities," USAID said.

MADAGASCAR

A recent USAID/DART assessment from the south-central city of Fianarantsoa to the east coast port city of Manakara revealed that food security and road and railway repairs are critical issues for this zone.

"If the railway is not fixed quickly, the inability to transport cash crops to market will affect the livelihoods of villagers, compromising their capacity to recover," USAID said in its latest report on the flooding in the giant Indian Ocean island 400 km east of Mozambique.

Health

A health sector committee, comprised of staff from the government and international organisations, has organised four teams to assess conditions in the southeastern, eastern, and western areas of the country.

Food

On Wednesday, WFP reported that a WFP and UN Food and Agriculture (FAO) Crop and Food Supply Assessment was scheduled to begin this week.

Those affected

OCHA reported on 20 March that 500,000 have been affected in Madagascar, including an estimated 42,000 who are in need of immediate assistance.

The government relief agency, the Conseil national de secours (CNS) estimated there were currently some 22,158 people displaced from their homes, with some 132,592 in need of relief assistance. The CNS has reported 200 deaths so far.

[ENDS]

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