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Mozambique floods: Getting children back to school

© UNICEF Mozambique/Thierry Delvigne-Jean
UNICEF Education Officer Lisa Doherty (centre, in blue UNICEF T-shirt) speaks with officials and residents at Chupanga camp for displaced people, near the town of Caia in Sofala Province. February 2007.

Mozambique, 19 February 2007 – Orlando and his family were among the first to arrive at Chupanga camp, near the town of Caia, in Sofala province. When the water started to rise, threatening his house and his small plot of land, he gathered a few belongings and left for safer grounds.

“I came with my wife and my one-year old son a week ago,” he says to UNICEF Education Officer Lisa Doherty, who is carrying out an assessment mission to find out about the living conditions in the camp. Other camp residents soon gather around them to tell their stories. Many of the displaced people are being sheltered in small tents built with plastic sheeting provided by UNICEF. The tents are neatly aligned over a large open field.

Some 3,000 people displaced by the floods have sought refuge here. And more are coming every day. Further down a dirt road running through a field of dried grass, hundreds of newly arrived people are waiting to be registered by the camp officials. Some are waiting in line; others are sitting on the ground. They look tired and eager to find a place to rest. Many have not eaten a proper meal since they left their homes.

Doherty walks through the crowd and speaks briefly with a group of women sitting on the ground with their babies. She finally reaches a small tent where camp officials have set up their base. The list of pressing needs is long. Tents and plastic sheeting are needed for the new comers. More latrines for the thousands of residents. Jerry cans and water bladders to store clean water. Mosquito bed nets to help prevent malaria.

Doherty is also concerned that most of the children in the camps are missing school. The local school nearby is too small to accommodate the hundreds of new children, and there is not enough school material. Authorities are reporting that some 40 schools have been damaged by the floods so far.

Fortunately, a shipment of tents – each one large enough for several classrooms – has arrived to Caia. Doherty explains to camp officials that they will receive one tent to set up near the existing school as well as school material for the students and the teachers.

© UNICEF Mozambique/Thierry Delvigne-Jean
People displaced by the floods arrive at Chupanga camp, near the town of Caia in Sofala Province. Some 3,000 people have already sought refuge here. February 2007.

Making sure that all the children living in the camps can get back to school quickly will be a tall order. Heavy rains over the past few weeks have burst the banks of the Zambezi River and flooded deltas across 16 districts in four provinces. An estimated 86,000 people have been evacuated to temporary accommodation centres – half of them are children.

In addition to the tents for temporary classrooms, UNICEF is distributing school material for thousands of children and their teachers as part of its immediate response: 25,000 learners kits, containing basic supplies such as a school bag, books, pen, eraser; 2,000 school kits, containing education and recreation supplies for a classroom; and 800 teachers kits, containing didactic material for teachers.

“The areas affected by the floods are also the ones hardest hit by the AIDS pandemic in the country,” explains UNICEF Mozambique Representative Leila Pakkala. “This 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. UNICEF is working with local authorities to identify orphans and vulnerable children living in the camps and ensure that they are protected against abuse. UNICEF is distributing 3000 kits of basic supplies, such as blankets, pans and soap, specifically developed for orphans and vulnerable children.

To face the challenge, UNICEF is collaborating with the Government, other United Nations agencies and NGO partners in a multisectoral ‘cluster approach’. UNICEF is the lead partner for nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, education and protection, and in partnership with an alliance of non-governmental organizations, is already looking at the longer term needs of the affected populations.

UNICEF is providing water tanks, jerry cans, buckets, plastic sheeting, insecticide-treated bednets, hygiene education and cholera prevention leaflets, school-in-a-box kits, temporary classroom tents.





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