UN to launch new appeal for international aid for Mozambique

A fresh appeal for emergency assistance will be launched next week to help flood-stricken Mozambique, where more than 463,000 people have lost their homes and the threat of epidemics dooms larger, a United Nations official said today.
Returning from a trip to Maputo, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Humanitarian Envoy to Mozambique, Ross Mountain, did not specify an amount for the appeal, but said it would target reconstruction work over the next six months.

According to the envoy, Mozambique is not out of danger and needs further support for reconstruction, particularly given the events since the UN teams visited the country in mid-February.

"Frankly everything was under control," Mr. Mountain said, "but the following weekend - February 26 and 27 - rains fell in neighbouring countries, Zimbabwe and South Africa. And these precipitations caused the opening of [dam] gates which resulted in unprecedented floods, and nobody foresaw that this would happen."

Meanwhile, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) warned today that the next two to eight weeks would be critical in the fight to prevent cholera and malaria epidemics.

According to a WHO statement, the threat of a malaria epidemic is increasing and will be at its most dangerous in three to six weeks as floodwaters gradually subside, rains stop and warm temperatures return, leaving ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes.

Suspected cholera cases are also on the rise, which has prompted the establishment of two special treatment centres in Maputo and a third expected to open today at Machava. Meanwhile, acute diarrhoea cases have increased significantly in Maputo and 14 out of 100 diarrhoea patients recently tested positive for cholera.

"These diseases are preventable," said WHO Representative for Mozambique, Dr. Carlos Tiny. "We are doing all we can to slow the spread of disease but there are areas where people still do not have access to clean water or shelter and so they are obviously more at risk."

WHO coordinates the Southern African Malaria Control Programme and is the main partner, along with UNICEF, in the global Roll Back Malaria (RBM) movement, which aims to decrease the number of malaria deaths by 50 per cent before 2010.