WFP Assistance to Flood Victims in Southern and Central Mozambique

Originally published
EMOP MOZ- 6225.00: Assistance to Flood Victims in Southern and Central Mozambique

Project Number/title: MOZ-6225.00: FLOOD VICTIMS
WFP food cost: US$ 1,694,880
Total cost to WFP: US$ 4,175,644
Number of beneficiaries: Average 110,000
Duration: 3 months (February - May 2000)


Recent official surveys indicate that as much as 69% of the Mozambican population live below the poverty line. The incidence of poverty is higher in the rural areas, with more than 70% of the population, while in the urban areas 60% of the population live below the poverty line.

The number of chronically food insecure population represents about one third of the total population and the population with high transitory food insecurity is still considered to be 20 to 25% of the total population.

Drought and floods are the events that have the most significant influence on the outcome of the subsistence agriculture practised by 80% of the population. One third of the cropland is located in areas prone to flood.

During the last couple of agricultural seasons, devastating floods have occurred. In 1996/97, farmers cultivating the most fertile low laying areas and the valleys of the main rivers lost most of their crop due to flooding. In the 1997/98 season, more than 300,000 people were affected, of which about 100,000 required food assistance. In the 1998/99 agricultural season, more than 63,000 hectares of food cropland was lost due to floods and again emergency food aid had to be provided by WFP.

However, the 2000 floods are even worse. SARCOF (Southern African Regional Climate Outlook Forum) and INAM (National Meteorological Institute) forecasted already in September/October 1999 the probability of above normal rainfall in the southern and central regions of the country, which would lead to floods in the low laying areas. Following above normal rainfall in January, flooding occurred in Maputo and Gaza provinces. In the Central Region, the water levels of the rivers rose significantly.

Cyclone Connie developed and struck southern Mozambique. The provinces of Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane received torrential rains. Within just three days (4,5 and 6 th February) more rain had fallen over Maputo than during a normal total rainy season (October - March): 453mm were registered against an average seasonal cumulative rainfall of 264mm. Consecutive rains turned residential areas into huge swamps, destroying or flooding houses in the poorer areas. Moreover, water levels of the main rivers were rising alarmingly high above the critical levels as the dams in South Africa, also receiving disastrous rains, released more water. The Limpopo, Incomati and Umbeluzi rivers passing through the provinces of Gaza and Maputo rose twice above the highest level ever registered with a flow of 7,000 m3/second compared to 3,000 m3/second which had been the worst flood figure registered in 50 years.

Districts heavily affected by floods in the current season include, Matutuine, Marracuene, Manhiça, Boane, Magude and Moamba (in Maputo province) Xai-Xai, Chokwe, Mabalane, Chicualacuala, Chokwe Guijá and Chibuto (in Gaza province), Búzi, Chibabava, and Machanga (in Sofala province), Machaze, (in Manica province), Govuro (in Inhambane province).

Since the rainy season usually lasts until the end of March more rain can be expected, and the situation may still deteriorate, including a further destruction of roads, infrastructures and an increase of the number of affected population.

As a result, most of the land under food crops in the Southern Region that is cultivated from October to April is affected. In this region, the crops on about two thirds of the cultivated area or 100,000 hectares are believed to be lost. In the Central Region, the crops on one third of the cultivated area is probably lost. This means losses in Sofala province of crops on 30,000 hectares and in Manica and Tete provinces on around 20,000 hectares. This total area of 150,000 has that will most probably be lost in the current season is already twice higher than any previous loss due to floods as recorded by the National Early Warning Unit.

Until mid-February, the floods have caused displacement and isolation and/or loss of food reserves, property and belongings of about 300,000 people, in addition to affecting a population of about 2.4 million people in urban and rural areas most of which live below the poverty line. In the south floods have destroyed roads and bridges providing access to commercial and residential areas, and increased demand on scarce social infrastructures, scarce services and resources and worsened health and sanitary conditions.

The supply of piped water has been interrupted in many locations. Wells have been flooded with dirty water and in the centers for the displaced persons there were problems to obtain clean water. Later, water bladders and other tanks have been supplied to many centers in the urban areas and the fire brigade is regularly refilling tanks. The situation in rural areas is much more precarious. The flooding made it very problematic to arrange safe latrines, and the general sanitation situation is poor. The risk of cholera outbreaks is very serious due to this lack of reasonable sanitary conditions. Many cases of diarrhea and malaria are being reported.

The road to South Africa, the main supplier of foodstuff and other key consumer items to the southern region, including the capital city of Maputo, has been cut off at several places during shorter or longer periods. Likewise, the road to Swaziland has been impassable. Prices of basic food are rising to levels that poorer families can not afford. Large numbers of people in the affected areas will require emergency relief food during an initial period while their land and houses are flooded and they are displaced. When the water has receded, food for work will be needed for rehabilitation and disaster prevention initiatives.


On 10 February, the government issued an appeal to the international community for assistance to a minimum of 150,000 flood affected persons in need of urgent humanitarian aid. Food was one of the items requested in the appeal. The appeal was updated on 16 February and included a request for food aid during three months to 300,000 persons.

The Government established an emergency committee chaired by the Prime Minister and with representatives of concerned Ministries, donor countries, UN agencies (WFP, UNICEF, WHO, FAO, UNDP) and NGOs (Red Cross, MSF, Religious Institutions, etc) with the aim of co-ordinating relief plans and actions. The INGC (the National Institute for Disaster Management) serves as focal point and provides leadership within the framework of co-ordination. The UNDAC (United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination) team deployed by OCHA works directly with INGC.

Sectoral working groups have been established covering food aid, transport, communication and customs issues, shelter, water, sanitation, health, infrastructure (roads and bridges), information, monitoring and evaluation.

The Airforce committed two helicopters of about 2.5 tons capacity to deliver food and other relief items to isolated areas and to rescue the population in areas where roads had been cut off or flooded.

The Fire brigade launched rescue operations in many towns and provided potable water in most accommodation centres of the cities of Maputo and Matola where more than 20,000 displaced people were lodged.


The immediate objective of the WFP emergency operation is to save the lives and to support the efforts to maintain good nutritional status and health of those who:

- lost their crops and stocks of food in rural areas
- lost their means of income and access to food in urban areas
- had to leave their homes and have been offered shelter in temporary centres

When conditions permit a return home of the displaced populations, the objective will be to support recover and rehabilitation activities with food or work.


Most of the flood affected are in the southern part of the country. It is estimated that the number of beneficiaries will vary during the duration of the EMOP. A rapid increase up to a maximum of 300,000 beneficiaries followed by a scale down as the rains and river levels recede can be anticipated. The average number of beneficiaries of WFP emergency food assistance during the 3-month period is estimated at 110,000. Approximately 22,000 of these are children in the 0-5 year age group. Supplementary feeding with high-energy biscuits of the malnourished children will be arranged with partners.

70,000 of the total 110,000 beneficiaries of general distributions are in the Southern Region's Provinces of Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane. As of mid-February most of the people in need of humanitarian assistance are in the capital city of Maputo, the industrial city of Matola and smaller towns in the Maputo Province. The number of people identified for assistance in the less urbanised Gaza Province is at the same time relatively small.

The number of beneficiaries is expected to rise as the rainy season lasts up to March, and in view of continued severe climatic conditions in Mozambique and the southern Africa region. The river levels are still increasing in Gaza and the number of people whose houses and fields are being swept away is steadily increasing. It is further noted that tropical cyclone "Eline" has at present moved into the channel of Mozambique and is expected to bring heavy rains to the southern and central portions of the country. Adjustments in the number of beneficiaries and the required relief assistance will be made depending on the effects of such climatic developments. This EMOP is therefore recommended for approval in order to enable donors to respond to the immediate humanitarian food needs.

In the Central Region, the number of flood victims is about 30,000. However, the typical movement of the rains during the last three months (January to March) of the rainy season is from the south northwards. This means that also torrential rains and rivers rising to critical levels soon could hit the Central, and possibly the Northern Region. The Province of Tete has a history of floods along the Zambezi River and, although only few families are currently affected, some 10,000 people could be expected to need emergency assistance.

Practically, all the areas flooded are in the zone targeted by the WFP VAM Unit as most vulnerable to food shortages. The beneficiaries are thus chronically or seasonally in a difficult food supply situation. They are basically whole families except in the Gaza province where almost every family has a male member working most of the year in South Africa. In Gaza, most of the population is rural and the economy is more dependent on livestock raising than other parts of the country.

Those most affected in the urban areas tend to be the populations in the "bairros" or poor suburbs where the rainwater drainage system is faulty or non-existing. The floods caused erosion that undermined and carried away houses and personal effects. Even moderate rainfall produces localised floods in these places. In the rural areas, the most fertile lands near the rivers attract farmers but those lands are also the most prone to floods which flush away fields and houses.


The provision of emergency food is one of the major relief activities coordinated by the Government of Mozambique through INGC (the National Institute for Disaster Management). Requirements, announced by local authorities, are assessed jointly by Government, UN, NGO and donor representatives.

WFP food is delivered to centres where local committees of the flood displaced have been set up. These committees are mostly composed of women. Sometimes all members of the committee are women. This is due to the tradition that matters concerning food are generally handled by women. The committees receive food and other relief items and arranges for the distribution within the centres. In some of the larger centres in urban areas a representative of the City Council is also present to liase with the authorities.

A well functioning centre needs, in addition to food, cooking and serving equipment and arrangements as well as provisions for the delivery of safe drinking and cleaning water, health services, lodging facilities for families, clothes and latrines. In this quick onset emergency all the necessary arrangements could not be provided at the same time. Many centres lack some of these facilities.

The WFP emergency operation is expected to provide relief to the displaced populations until the flooded zones have dried up enough for a return to their homes. A follow-up phase with FFW will be needed to clean up and start up economic activities. A most important activity will be to support farmers replace the lost crops by providing seeds, tools and other implements to enable a second agricultural cycle.


Special provisions will be made available by donors to set up an air bridge operation allowing the supply of WFP food and non-food items to sites lacking road access.

Different organisations will be providing non-food items needed in the centres. WFP will provide cooking and serving utensils to facilitate the relief as well as recovery items for the subsequent food for work activities. WFP will be arranging for the maize to be milled since the traditional tools have been lost in the floods.


Under the Regional Manager/Country Director delegated authority an immediate response to the emergency food needs is being provided in the form of Family Food Parcels which are quickly available at low cost from neighbouring Swaziland.

To enable a quick response WFP in-country food has been used in the initial phase of the operation. Replenishment of food will be made with preference for local purchases in Mozambique of maize, pulses and sugar as far as this is possible and cash resources available. As a second option, food commodities will have to be purchased in the region. Vegetable oil will have to be imported.

For the Southern Region, overland transports will preposition the food in Maputo and to Manhica (70 kms north of Maputo) which, for the time being is the most advanced point northwards. In Manhica, WFP has secured warehousing and the national road is used as an air strip for small planes and helicopters moving food to isolated sites in the three southern provinces.

In the respective sites, conditions vary considerably. In some, proper centres have been established serving hot meals but many are simply dry land surrounded by the floodwater and improvised arrangements for cooking and serving food has been necessary.

For the Central Region, Beira is the port town where a WFP sub-office is located. Onforwarding is currently carried out by truck and occasionally by boat to cross rivers.

District Administrators have a general responsibility for arranging reception, storage and distribution of the relief items. Some NGOs (LWF, Caritas, Care) are interested in working with WFP, assisting with the handling of food distributions.


WFP has deployed trained food aid monitors from Activity MOZ 5935 to participate in the implementation of the operation and particularly to serve as monitors of the activities. The quantities of each food commodity delivered to each centre are recorded. In many cases it is, initially, not possible to further monitor the final distributions and preparation of meals. In the more organised centres health staff are available and will be consulted regarding the nutritional status of the displaced persons. The food monitors will also monitor and report on inputs and actual results of the many FFW activities.


The food ration of 500 grams of maize, 50 grams of pulses, 20 grams of vegetable oil and 20 grams of sugar provides 2,170 kcal, 60 grams of protein and 40 grams of fat which is satisfactory in the current situation. This ration corresponds with the institution feeding ration used in the Activity MOZ 5935 "the Food Fund". All four commodities are well known and acceptable to both rural and urban populations in Mozambique.

WFP, in collaboration with UNICEF or other nutritionists, will also provide high-energy biscuits as supplementary food for malnourished children in the centres and other sites.


Security is not considered a major issue in the current operation. However, staff on mission to lead the operation or to monitor distributions are always equipped with means of communications enabling them to communicate with the WFP office staff. HF, VHF radios will be used. For work in Maputo and locations up to the city of Xai-Xai cell phones have been provided to key staff.


This Emergency Operation MOZ-6225.00, for an average of 110,000 flood victims in southern and central Mozambique during a period of three months is recommended for approval within the attached budget.

12. APPROVAL (signature and date)

Rome, 24 February 2000

Jean-Jacques Graisse