WHO supports Mozambique in relief efforts

Maputo, Moçambique . P.O. Box 377, Zimbabwe n=BA. 1230
Tel (258-1) 492732 - 491991 / Fax (258-1) 491990
On February 10, the Government of Mozambique declared a disaster due to floods which put around 800,000 people at risk out of whom 220,000 are estimated displaced, currently housed in temporary shelters and in need of humanitarian assistance.

At the request of WHO Representative, Dr. Carlos Tiny, the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Africa (WHO/AFRO) sent a team of four experts in the areas of public health, epidemiology, malariology, nutrition, and sanitary engineering.

The WHO country office in Mozambique set-up a WHO Emergency Support Team (WEST) composed of the four experts from the Regional Office plus six members from the Country Office. This team is working in close collaboration with other partners including UN Agencies, bilateral and NGOs to provide technical support the Government in emergency relief operations.

One priority identified by the MOH is the need for a Rapid Assessment in six provinces for which and WHO is providing technical and financial support to this exercise.

The Minister of Health of Mozambique, Dr. Francisco Songane, accompanied by the WHO Representative and senior officers from his Ministry visited, on Sunday, some affected areas in Maputo Province, namely Ilha Josina Machel, Xinavane, Magude, Sábie and Curumana and confirmed that the health situation very difficult in.

In certain places homeless people have been living in very precarious conditions even sleeping under trees. There are many people isolated with problems of lack of food, shelters or any kind of medical assistance.

The Italian Government through WHO have sent to Mozambique emergency kits which can benefit a total of 10 to 15 thousand people during three months.

Six provinces have been so far affected by the floods: Maputo City, the provinces of Maputo, Gaza, Inhambane and to a lesser extent Sofala and Manica.

The more severely affected population is still without access to safe drinking water, health care and other basic services. Of the 220,000 displaced people, around 44,000 are children under five-years of age, most of whom have had little food and safe drinking water since the beginning of the flooding. An estimated 11,220 of the 220,000 displaced people, are pregnant women, of whom 3,400 are expected to deliver within the coming three months.

Sanitation is a problem in all flooded areas, significantly increasing the number of cases of communicable diseases including the risk of outbreaks such as Malaria and cholera. Some confirmed cases of cholera have already been reported (Maputo, 1 case; Beira, 15-18 cases daily). Outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases such as measles and meningitis are also a major threat to which immediate response is needed.

Some health facilities have been damaged and some other are isolated, which poses the problem of reduced accessibility. Health services in the affected areas are overwhelmed by the number of patients and are working beyond capacity. Drug stocks are running out and there is a serious shortage of health workers. The Ministry of Health (MOH) is reviewing the situation with the possibility of reassigning staff from non-affected areas and recruiting new one.

Most roads have been damaged and aeroplane and helicopter are the most suitable means of distributing food, drugs and other goods in the affected areas. Up to now, only 50% of available food have been distributed due to lack of roads. This situation increases significantly operational and transport costs.

The Government and local and international organisations have mobilised to respond to the crisis but most of the needs of the affected population (food, water, shelter, health care, sanitation, etc) remain unmet. The situation is expected to worsen as the rains continue and with the virtual isolation of some of the flooded areas.