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MAPUTO, 13th February 2007 – The United Nations is stepping up its emergency response in central Mozambique as the number of people seeking refuge in temporary accommodation centres along the Zambeze River Valley is increasing due to severe flooding. More than 26,000 people are currently sheltered in 53 accommodation centres across four provinces. Mozambique’s disaster management agency (INGC) estimates that 142,000 people could require humanitarian assistance over the next few weeks.
The United Nations has deployed an emergency team to evaluate the flood’s impact on various key sectors – water and sanitation, food security, health, education and child protection. The multi-agency team will carry out a rapid assessment of the affected area and formulate an appropriate response under the coordination of the government.
“The UN is working closely with the government to ensure emergency needs of those affected by the flooding are met expeditiously,” said Ndolamb Ngokwey, UN Resident Coordinator in Mozambique.
The flooding has been caused by persistent heavy rains in neighbouring countries and in some provinces of Mozambique over the past weeks. This has led the national water authorities in Mozambique to gradually increase the flow of water from the Cahora Bassa dam, from about 2,500 cubic meters per second in January to over 8,000 last week.
The increased volume of water being discharged from the Cahora Bassa dam into the Zambeze River, combined with heavy rains in some areas, has resulted in severe flooding downstream. Water levels in the main tributaries of the Zambeze River passed alert level several days ago, threatening close to 285,000 people living in 16 districts along the river valley in the provinces of Tete, Manica, Sofala and Zambezia.
The central region of Mozambique has also been hardest hit by the AIDS pandemic, which has made families and communities less able to cope with the blow of natural disasters such as this one. The provinces of Sofala and Manica have the highest prevalence rates in the country and the largest number of orphaned and vulnerable children.
The whole UN country team is mobilized to respond to the emergency situation. The UN has been working closely with INGC, the Ministry of Health, and the National Water Board to put in place contingency plans to ensure that some 285,000 people in the Zambezi River valley can be evacuated in time should the situation deteriorate.
“The situation is evolving very quickly,” said the Head of UNICEF in Mozambique, Leila Pakkala. “Children and women are hit the hardest in this type of disaster and our first priority is to save lives. UNICEF’s main concern at this point is the spread of waterborne diseases – cholera and diarrhea – which can kill very quickly in these precarious conditions.”
UNICEF sent an initial shipment of emergency supplies last week – water bladders, buckets, jerry cans, blankets and plastic sheeting – to the disaster management authorities working out of Caia District (province of Sofala), the operational hub for national disaster preparedness and response efforts.
A second shipment of emergency supplies is expected to arrive this week to help fill gaps in national water authority stocks. The supplies include additional water purification supplies, chlorine and water bladders for up to 50,000 people, or 10,000 families, as well as tents, mosquito nets and supplementary food for children.
The tents will be used primarily as temporary schools for children who have been displaced and for setting up health posts and cholera treatment centers in the event of an outbreak.
WFP has deployed 25 people to the worst-affected areas and has a helicopter based in Caia to ferry food stocks and other humanitarian aid as well as contribute to rescue efforts if required. So far, WFP has started distributing 300 tons of pre-positioned food to people who have already been evacuated from low-lying areas.
“Victims of natural disasters always need food, shelter and clean water,” said Ken Davies, WFP Country Director in Mozambique. “We are lucky to have a small amount of food available in stock but it’s not going to be enough for all those who will need help over the coming weeks.”
UNDP has provided support to hire a helicopter used for the assessment missions of the government in the flooded areas. This agency is also supporting the INGC with the planning and preparation of an emergency appeal in case the situation should deteriorate.
About UNICEF UNICEF is on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
For more information, please contact:
Luis Zaqueu, United Nations Communication Officer, Resident Coordinaotor’s Office, Tel : (+258) 21 48 51 58/59, Mobile : (+258) 82 308 2470