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Responding to the floods in Mozambique

© UNICEF Mozambique/Thierry Delvigne-Jean
Two children stand in front of their flooded house in Caia, Province of Sofala, February 2007.
Mozambique, 21 February 2007 - Together with the Government of Mozambique and other international and local organizations, UNICEF is actively engaged in the humanitarian response to the severe flooding that has led some 120,000 people – half of them children – to abandon their homes in central Mozambique.  

An estimated 70,000 people have been evacuated to temporary accommodation centres, while some 49,000 have sought refuge in resettlement centres that were established following the 2001 flood emergency.

UNICEF has deployed three emergency teams to assess the flood’s impact on various key sectors – water and sanitation, nutrition, health, education and child protection in the areas affected by the floods. The teams are currently working with local authorities to respond to the needs of the affected populations who are sheltered in the camps.

“Our immediate priority is to improve the living conditions of the people who have been displaced,” says UNICEF Representative Leila Pakkala. ”Children account for half of the population in the camps and they are particularly vulnerable to diseases and malnutrition.”

The UNICEF Health and Nutrition Officers based in Caia, Mopeia and Mutarara are supporting the local health authorities in assessing the health situation of children. The most common illnesses registered in centres so far are diarrhoea, malaria and conjunctivitis.

The areas affected by the floods are also the ones hardest hit by the AIDS pandemic in the country. This has made families and communities less able to cope with the blow of natural disasters like 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.

“Another concern is the number of children in the camps who are missing school,” says Pakkala. “Many local schools do not have the capacity to accommodate hundreds of new students, and there are not enough school materials for everyone.”

To respond to the challenge, UNICEF is collaborating with the Government, other United Nations agencies and other partners in a multisectoral cluster approach. UNICEF is the lead partner for nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene and is co-lead with Save the   Children in education and protection. UNICEF also works in health, which is lead by WHO.

UNICEF’s Response

Several shipments of emergency supplies arrived last week and this week to fill gaps in national authority stocks. UNICEF’s team on the ground are currently overseeing the distribution of water tanks, jerry cans, buckets, plastic sheeting, insecticide-treated bednets, hygiene education and cholera prevention leaflets, school-in-a-box kits, tents,and education materials to the camps in the four affected provinces.

The tents are being 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.

The UNICEF Health and Nutrition experts based in Caia, Mopeia and Mutarara are supporting the local health authorities in assessing the nutritional status of affected children. In Caia, an assessment of the nutritional status of children (using weight for height) found 72 cases of moderate malnutrition and 12 cases of severe malnutrition registered (out of 472 children screened). All children are receiving supplementary or therapeutic feeding.

UNICEF has been working with local authorities and Save the Children Norway to initiate training of community activists on issues of protection of orphaned and vulnerable children in all of the accommodation centres in the area. As of 20 February, 20 activists from the Ministry of Women and Social Action have begun work in the centres in Sofala, identifying the most vulnerable children, sensitizing community leadership and identifying key protection focal people in each of the centres in preparation for the arrival of either protection related supplies or orientation/training work.

UNICEF is also in contact with the police at national level to ensure that accommodation centres are being visited by police trained in gender-based violence and cases of child abuse.

UNICEF Supplies being distributed*

Water, hygiene and sanitation

  • 500 tarpaulin sheets to build shelters and latrines
  • 5000 jerry cans
  • 5000 buckets
  • 10,500 latrine slabs 
  • 100 water bladders

 Health 

  • 55,000 long-lasting insecticide treated mosquito bednets
  • 270 hygiene education and cholera prevention “flip charts”
  • 40,000 information leaflets on cholera
  • 5,000 bars of soap

Nutrition

  • 18 metric tonnes of BP5 (supplementary feeding)

Education  

  • 31 tents to be used as temporary learning spaces 
  • 25,000 learners kits, containing basic supplies such as a school bag, books, pen, eraser, etc.
  • 200 school kits, containing education and recreation supplies for a classroom
  • 2,800 teachers kits, containing didactic material for teachers

Protection and Psychosocial Support 

  • 3,000 emergency kits for orphaned and vulnerable children, containing basic supplies such as blankets, pans, soap, etc.
  • 60 recreational kits containing play materials such as balls

* This list is not comprehensive.

© UNICEF Mozambique/Thierry Delvigne-Jean
A young boy has sought refuge with his family in Chupanga camp, near the town of Caia (province of Sofala) after severe floods ravaged their village. UNICEF provided plastic sheeting to build temporary shelters and latrines.

Background

Mozambique is prone to natural disasters, including cyclones, floods and persistent drought. These events have a dramatic impact on the lives of children and women, many of whom already suffer from chronic vulnerability due to food insecurity, HIV and AIDS, health epidemics and inadequate access to social services.

Mozambique is among the world’s 20 poorest countries, ranking 168 out of 177 countries on the 2005 Human Development Index. About half of the adult population lives in poverty. Its population is strikingly young, with 10 million children accounting for half of the total population of 20 million.

Around 70 per cent of Mozambicans live in rural areas, where the majority eke a living from subsistence farming. Recurrent drought in the country’s interior, however, has led people to migrate to urban and coastal areas with adverse environmental consequences, such as desertification and pollution of surface water.

While Mozambique’s income per capita is US$ 310, well below the sub-Saharan average of US$ 754, the country has emerged as one of Africa’s most successful examples of post conflict reconstruction and economic recovery.

Since the end of a 16-year civil war in 1992, Mozambique’s economy has grown at a strong pace. Between 1997 and 2003, economic growth averaged about nine per cent, well above the continent’s average, and continues to grow.

During the same period, the proportion of Mozambicans living below the poverty line fell from 69 per cent to 54 per cent, exceeding the goals set out in the Government’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy, known as PARPA.

However, child poverty remains a pervasive and deep rooted problem, with about 58 per cent of children living below the poverty line. One of Mozambique’s biggest challenges will be to translate its economic gains into improved child and maternal health and well-being over the medium and longer term.

Poverty reduction efforts and other social advances have not benefited everyone equally. Disparities in income, education, health and nutritional status as well as access to safe water and sanitation exist between those living in rural areas and urban areas; between men and women, boys and girls and between those that are educated and those that are not.

HIV and AIDS is the greatest threat to Mozambique’s development. There are about 1.7 million people living with HIV and AIDS – 58 per cent are women.

Out of the country’s 1.6 million orphans in 2006, more than 380,000 have lost their parents to AIDS-related illnesses. As parents continue to die, the number of orphaned children is predicted to rise to 626,000 in 2010. Life expectancy is also expected to fall from 37.1 years in 2006 to 35.9 years by 2010.

 

 
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