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Living with Floods in Gaza Province

© UNICEF Mozambique / A. Drivdal
School children in the Dotane resettlement camp in Guijá district in Gaza, one of 12 such camps in the province.

GAZA, Mozambique, 7 March 2011 – During January this year, floods in the Limpopo basin, which is located in the southern part of Mozambique, affected an estimated 30,000 people. Parts of the lower Zambezi valley and areas of Sofala were also subject to seasonal flooding, which was triggered and exacerbated by heavy rains in neighboring counties. While floods are an almost annual phenomenon in some regions of Mozambique, and remain a permanent risk in flood-prone areas like the Limpopo basin, the human and material impact of the floods has decreased over time, mostly thanks to improved preparedness and coordination by the Government of Mozambique. For UNICEF Mozambique, this change has prompted a shift away from a focus on emergency response towards a greater emphasis on disaster risk reduction.

Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is a systematic approach to identifying, assessing and reducing disaster risk. The purpose of DRR is to minimize vulnerabilities and disaster risks throughout a society in order to prevent, mitigate and prepare for the adverse impacts of natural disasters, and to facilitate sustainable development. The strengthening of UNICEF’s work in disaster risk reduction is part of a wider organizational effort to promote a new thrust of humanitarian action. This includes a set of principles, approaches and specific interventions that cover preparedness, response and early recovery from disaster, and thus bridge the gap between development and humanitarian programming.

"Disaster risk reduction is about helping the communities prepare better and be ready when disaster strikes, so that there will be no loss of human life and so that those affected can continue to lead as normal lives as possible," says Hanoch Barlevi, Emergency Response and DRR Specialist at UNICEF Mozambique.

In several districts in Gaza, the populations from the flood-affected areas have been relocated to resettlement camps on higher ground. By providing access to services and land, the Government hopes that those living in the most exposed areas will relocate permanently to safe areas, turning the resettlement camps into long-term settlements. While they may continue to farm the land close to the rivers, and even keep a temporary dwelling there, the inhabitants of flood-prone areas are encouraged to have their permanent dwelling on higher ground.

© UNICEF Mozambique / A. Drivdal
School children in front of a portable school tent. The school tents can be raised practically anywhere and in very short time, thus minimizing the time that children are without access to schooling.

"Rather than agencies responding to recurrent emergencies in the same way year in and year out, there is now greater focus on prevention, mitigation and quick recovery," says Barlevi.  

Permanent and semi-permanent resettlement of populations exposed to flood risk is part of this mitigation process. In January and February, more than 6,000 families in Gaza moved voluntarily during the floods, and of these, some 1,500 families remain in resettlement camps in Bilene, Guijá, Chokwe and Xai-Xai. To varying degrees, conditions have been created in the camps to make them a viable alternative to living in the flood-prone areas.

UNICEF, in partnership with the Government and other partners, is providing school tents, school kits for students and recreation and play kits to the children in the camps. Slabs to make safe and sanitary latrines, as well as water purification solutions, are also made available. Furthermore, UNICEF provides behavior change communication messages through community radio, theater groups and printed materials. 

The children in the camps are either integrated into nearby schools or schools are started within the camps. In either scenario, the goal is for the resettled children to continue their education with as little interruption as possible. In Dotane resettlement camp in Guijá district, some 160 families consisting of 636 family members have settled in the camp. There are 52 tents to provide shelter to the families, and water is supplied by World Vision every second day. This is not enough, but the families have learnt to use the water economically and sparingly.

Trained Red Cross volunteers provide first aid and basic health services within the camp. The 150 children living in the camp go to school in a UNICEF school tent, receive UNICEF school materials and go about their learning as enthusiastically as they did before moving to the camp.

Another key success factor in improving emergency response in Mozambique has been the cluster approach, which is different from a sectoral approach in that it focuses on commonly developed and shared objectives. Within a cluster approach, the Government and various agencies work jointly towards the same objectives, which supersede or replace the individual objectives of any organization or agency.

As lead for the nutrition cluster and the water and sanitation cluster, as well as co-lead for education and social protection clusters, UNICEF helps provide leadership in these areas. In nutrition, for example, the cluster works to maintain a strong focus on the risk of under nutrition in children resulting from emergencies, a risk that is exacerbated by the generally high level of under nutrition in the country and therefore requires special attention in any program of disaster risk reduction.

Arild Drivdal, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email: maputo@unicef.org

Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email: maputo@unicef.org

 

 
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