Southern Africa: Floods report 24 Mar 2000

Report
from The New Humanitarian
Published on 24 Mar 2000
JOHANNESBURG, 24 March (IRIN) - As flood relief operations in Mozambique move into the reconstruction phase, UNICEF this week raised new concerns about the plight of children separated from their parents. It also cited a lack of safe drinking water for many of the country's displaced people.
In Madagascar, humanitarian officials said rescue operations were continuing to identify and assist displaced people in areas isolated by the tropical storms Eline and Gloria. Although floodwaters have been receding in the Indian Ocean island 400 km off the Mozambique coast, landslides have reportedly prevented many roads from reopening.

In Botswana, where 73,000 people were left homeless by the floods, the government has already repaired damaged water systems and provided water sources in most of the flood-hit areas in the northeast of the country.

Meanwhile, reports reached IRIN on Friday from Swaziland, where it was reported that much of the staple maize crop had been wiped out. The Kingdom which shares borders with Mozambique and South Africa will now have to make up some of the shortfall from donors.

MOZAMBIQUE

UNICEF, in its latest report, said some key roads in Mozambique have been reopened and aid was now being distributed by road. It said, however, that many main roads in rural areas remained submerged in floodwaters.

Death toll mounts

The numbers of people killed in the flooding has now reached 640 following the discovery of more bodies in the southern town of Chokwe and surrounding areas in the Gaza Province, a government spokesman said.

Antonio Macheve said on Friday that searches will continue as water levels recede and more bodies are found. "A further 100 people were still reported missing in the province," Macheve said.

Food aid

To help revive Mozambique's economy, WFP said on Friday it was buying as much food as possible on the domestic market. Since the beginning of the floods, WFP has purchased 900 mt of maize locally. The agency said it planned to buy an additional US $1 million worth of maize this week.

It added that it has delivered more than 3,876 mt of food aid nationwide since the beginning of its emergency operations in February. WFP said it would use the food it buys to pay workers to help reconstruct the highways connecting Save to Beira and Vilankulos - both vital lifelines for the movement of aid in central Mozambique.

Shelter

UNICEF said 30,000 flood victims are accommodated in 12 shelters in Maputo province, while in the capital, Maputo about 4,000 displaced people have sought shelter in four schools and a factory. It added that the largest refugee camp is in Chaquelane, about 160 km northeast of the capital in the Gaza province, where an estimated 57,000 people are accommodated.

It said most displaced people's camps are in "desperate" need of necessities including food and water.

Women and children's plight

UNICEF estimates that 30 to 40 percent of children in parts of Inhambane province have been separated from their parents. It was working with the Mozambican government in registering all unaccompanied children. It added, however, that 58 out of 110 unaccompanied children in the Chaquelane camp have been reunited with their families.

The UN's World Health Organisation (WHO), meanwhile, estimates that 15,300 displaced women are pregnant and that 4,600 of these women are expected to deliver within the next three months and require special medical attention to ensure safe delivery.

Health

UNICEF said since the beginning of the floods, most of the affected population has had little food or safe drinking water. "Cases of severe and moderate malnutrition among children in the affected areas are increasing," UNICEF said.

WHO has warned that 800,000 people in the Southern African region are at risk of cholera and malaria because of the floods. It added that in one hospital in Maputo province, at least 500 people have malaria symptoms, while in Chaquelane, at least 300 malaria cases are diagnosed daily, added UNICEF.

Water and sanitation

The lack of clean and safe drinking water has been made worse by the serious damage caused to wells and sanitation facilities in many parts of the country, said UNICEF. Cases of communicable diseases and outbreaks of malaria and dysentery have increased as a result.

UNICEF said it is providing support for hygiene education campaigns and communication awareness initiatives to prevent further outbreaks of water-borne diseases. It said it had begun distributing hygiene packs to 50,000 families in Chibuto and Macia. Each pack, designed for use by individual families, contains soap, a jerrycan, a bucket and a cholera awareness leaflet.

It also said it would help provide shovels, buckets and protective clothing to facilitate proper sanitation practices and waste disposal in temporary shelters. It added that it would help disinfect and chlorinate household wells.

Agriculture

Mozambican authorities estimate that over 311,000 planted acres have been destroyed in the provinces of Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane. Further estimates indicate that 62,600 farming households have lost their farming lands and that the most affected crops include maize, beans, rice, sweet potatoes, peanuts and vegetables.

In addition, the authorities estimate that more than 50,000 head of cattle have died.

UNICEF said it is preparing to support rehabilitation efforts in agriculture by providing seeds, basic farming tools, equipment, as well as emergency veterinary assistance for surviving cattle.

Education

UNICEF said efforts to reconstruct and repair destroyed and damaged school buildings are underway. It said 10 mt of emergency education materials have been airlifted from the capital, Maputo to Chibuto in the Gaza province.

The supplies include exercise books, pencils, pens, black boards, sets of school maps and soccer balls, which will benefit at least 79 schools, UNICEF added.

Nutrition

UNICEF and WFP are helping to provide more than 129 mt of high-protein biscuits to children and adults suffering from malnutrition. The two UN agencies are also setting up therapeutic feeding centres in various camps, including the hard-hit Maciene town.

BOTSWANA

Floodwaters have diminished throughout the country following torrential rains that displaced 73,000 people mainly in the northeast of Botswana, USAID said in its latest report.

Damage

The government said that the bulk of the damage occurred in heavily populated areas in the eastern half of the country, where a majority of Botswana's 1.5 million people live. It said 17,000 houses were damaged or destroyed, the majority of which were informal or squatter settlements.

USAID said recent reports indicated that 400 homes were damaged in the northeast and that about 1,300 people were left homeless in areas around the western town of Ghanzi.

Shelter

Botswana's National Disaster Management Unit has identified a need for more tents and planned to purchase 3,800 tents in the near future. USAID said it had observed that tents provided by the government have been set up in many flood-affected areas.

Health

USAID said that no significant outbreaks of water-borne or vector-borne diseases resulting from the floods have been reported. It said many health posts were open and appeared to have sufficient medicines for basic needs. It added that the prevalence of diarrhoea cases appeared to be declining.

Water and sanitation

The government, according to USAID, has already repaired damaged water systems and provided water sources in most affected areas. However, a joint UN, USAID and government team will visit Maun, located in the northeast, to assess damage to water and sanitation systems, roads, agriculture and clinics.

SWAZILAND

Heavy rains and flooding in Swaziland have destroyed at least 10 percent of the country's cotton crop resulting a loss of revenue earnings estimated at over US $9 million, according to the agriculture ministry.

The tiny Kingdom bordering Mozambique and South Africa, also expects to see yields of the national staple, maize, reduced by 37 percent.

According to the country's National Disaster Relief Unit, Swaziland will have to import 66,000 mt of maize, and will seek assistance from donors to make up the remainder of the country's annual 138,000 mt requirements.

The Swazi authorities also reported that bean and sweet potato crops had virtually been wiped out, and that farmers could not plant new crops because fields along the swollen Umbuluzi and Komati rivers which flow into southern Mozambique were flooded.

[ENDS]

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