Friday, 11 February 2000: The United
Nations Children's Fund has launched a major effort to prevent the outbreak
and spread of diseases such as cholera, malaria and diarrhoea in flood-affected
Mozambique, where high waters have affected more than 800,000 people and
created urgent humanitarian needs for 150,000, including 30,000 children.
UNICEF's emergency relief effort seeks to protect public health by providing urgently-needed medical supplies, ensuring access to safe water supplies, and launching a grass-roots communication campaign aimed at helping affected populations prevent the spread of disease.
From its country office in Mozambique, UNICEF has committed $400,000 in emergency funds to support efforts by the Government and various relief agencies to provide immediate assistance. UNICEF foresees a total humanitarian relief package in excess of $1.2 million.
The immediate funding commitment includes:
- A shipment of essential drugs and medical supplies, due to arrive early next week
- Distribution of safe water to communities where pipes remain ruptured or clogged
- Teaching and learning materials for 30 schools whose supplies were washed away
- A national communication campaign aimed at helping prevent the spread of disease
- Technical guidance in planning, monitoring and coordination, aimed at helping government agencies and NGOs optimise their efforts to protect public health.
"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 diarrhoea and malaria have already been reported," he added.
The heavy rain over the past 10 days has pushed the Incomati, Umbeluzi and Sabie rivers to the highest levels on record, and conditions throughout the affected areas remain overcast and damp with an almost constant drizzle. According to the government, flood conditions exist in Maputo Province, including Maputo City and Matola town, and the provinces of Province, Inhambane and Sofala. Some 20,000 people lost their homes in Maputo City, the capital, with another 10,000 requiring temporary relocation.
UNICEF's technical and material support is being provided in full co-operation with the Government of Mozambique, in particular with the ministries of Health, Education, and Public Works and Water, all under the co-ordination of the National Institute for Disaster Management. UNICEF is also working closely with international NGOs and sister UN agencies, as well as the Mozambican Red Cross and MSF.
As much as possible, UNICEF will channel its assistance through existing health networks, and preposition its cholera treatment drugs strategically in all affected areas. UNICEF is currently carrying out several assessment missions to establish where needs are greatest and what kinds of assistance are most urgent.
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For more information on UNICEF, visit its website at http://www.unicef.org