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© UNICEF Mozambique/ James Elder
In Cupanga camp, children women and children fetch water at the main water source.

Sofala province, Mozambique, 13 de March – In 2000, as Mozambique grappled with deadly floods that claimed the lives of thousands, Rosita Pedro became a baby celebrity. Born up a tree as her mother sought refuge from the rising waters, Rosita and her mother were winched by a helicopter rescue team to safety, and to some stardom. Images of Mrs Pedro and Rosita helped bring critical attention – and support – to the emergency unfolding in Mozambique.

Seven years later, Mozambique is again deluged by floods, though the tide of child birth continues. Days days ago in a temporary accommodation centre housing some 8000 displaced people, Marcelena Gaspar gave birth. Marcelena and her newborn will never know the celebrity status that then surrounded Rosita and her mother, though they are equally symbolic of the resilience of Mozambicans, and their good health testament to the overall efforts that have gone in to ensuring safe water, sanitation and hygiene in the accommodation centres.

“The birth was in the health centre here; it was quick and the medical people were very good,” says Marcelena, standing outside her UNICEF-provided tent in Chupanga accommodation centre. “I don’t have a name yet for my daughter, but I think she is the one with some luck.”

As flood waters rose, UNICEF was quick on the ground setting up essential services to ensure the health of the thousands in the accommodation centres. Within a few days of the first arrivals, UNICEF had delivered 10,000litre water containers, thousands of mosquito nets, hundreds of jerry cans, buckets, tents for schools, learning and teaching kits, and scores of latrines.

“They may not be the most alluring form of support in emergencies, though perhaps the most indispensable intervention in these emergency accommodation centres is toilets and latrines,” says UNICEF’s Head of Water and Sanitation in Mozambique, Manuel Freitas. “Without them the risk of disease is treacherously high.”

© UNICEF Mozambique/ James Elder
Marcelena and her newborn under a mosquito bed net in their tent.

The threat of malaria is also a grave concern for UNICEF and partners. Seasonally, malaria numbers are at their highest now in Mozambique, and that has been exacerbated by the flooding and sudden congregation of thousands of people.

Marcelena has felt the sting of malaria more times than she cares to remember. Both her two young sons have had “it many times”. The largest killer of Mozambican children, malaria poses an enormous threat to those affected by the floods and now in accommodation centres such as this one. Mosquitoes thrive in pools of water, and after weeks of heavy rains caused flash floods along the Zambezi river and its tributaries, the pools of water resemble lakes.

But here in Chupanga, malaria has also been kept at bay. UNICEF and partners have distributed a net to every household in this accomodation centre, and more than 53.000 nets since the beginning of the emergency. And so tonight, as she now does every night, Marcelena, her boys, and her unnamed though “lucky” newborn all sleep under an insecticide treated net.

Not stars perhaps, but safe and sound.

 

 

 

 

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Floods in Mozambique


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2007 Floods and Cyclone: humanitarian updates

Mozambique humanitarian situation update, 31 March-13 April 2007

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