Unsheltered and lonely: orphans cope with Mozambique’s worst flood crisis

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© Hanna Butler / IFRC

This is a guest blog by Luke Tredget in Chaquelane, Mozambique. Luke is part of a team of sanitation experts who were sent to the country by the British Red Cross last month.

When severe downpours battered Mozambique at the beginning of the year, swollen rivers broke their banks and flooded homes. This lead to mass evacuations in the southern tip of the country.

Hundreds of thousands of people were affected by the floods, and the entire town of Chokwe was forced to evacuate.

Most of the stricken people sought shelter among family and relatives. Most, except for a small group of children at the local Red Cross orphanage.

Left homeless

At Chaquelane camp in Mozambique’s southern province of Gaza, dozens of orphans are now sheltered by the Red Cross while they wait for families to host them.

Members of the community have adopted some of the children. Several orphaned children have also been taken in by the families of volunteers from the local Red Cross here in Mozambique.

Supporting these children is an important part of the Red Cross’ response to the emergency in Mozambique. The Mozambique Red Cross society has a long history of supporting orphans in this country, where the HIV pandemic has wreaked havoc.

Like family

Amelia Oessa, the Mozambique Red Cross co-ordinator knows all of Chaquelane camp’s 43 orphans by name. She said: “We have worked with these children for years. Helping them is like helping our own family.”

Mozambique has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world. The UN estimates that 11.5 per cent of the adult population are living with the virus and 1.6 million children are living without parents.

The floods have added to the significant challenges this vast southern African country already faces.

Reducing disease

Since early January 2013, heavy rains have fallen in southern and central Mozambique. These downpours have destroyed houses, schools, health centres and crops, forcing affected people to leave their homes in search of safer areas.

Gaza province is the worst affected – 175,693 people have been displaced and the town of Chokwe with its 90,000 residents was completely evacuated. The deluge has killed more than 100 people and affected almost 250,000 people since January.

Earlier this month, I came to the country as part of a team of sanitation experts sent by the British Red Cross. Our aim is to reduce the risk of diseases such as malaria and health problems related to diarrhoea.

We are currently stationed at Chaquelane camp, where we are building toilets and providing safe drinking water, soap, and information on how to stop the spread of deadly diseases.

Donate to the British Red Cross Disaster Fund, to help us respond to future crises