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Protecting and educating children affected by floods in Mozambique

© UNICEF/HQ07-0110/Delvigne-Jean
Children displaced by floods in Mozambique wait to be registered at Chupanga Camp, near the town of Caia in Sofala Province.

By Thierry Delvigne-Jean

SOFALA PROVINCE, Mozambique, 20 February 2007 – Orlando and his family were among the first to arrive at Chupanga Camp, near the town of Caia in Mozambique’s Sofala Province, after the recent floods began.

“I came with my wife and my one-year-old son a week ago,” he tells UNICEF Education Officer Lisa Doherty, who is carrying out an assessment of living conditions in the camp.

Other camp residents soon gather around them to tell their stories. Many of the displaced are being sheltered in small tents made of 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 at Chupanga Camp, and more are arriving daily. They are among an estimated 86,000 people in Mozambique – half of them children – who have been evacuated to temporary accommodation centres over the past few weeks, as heavy rains burst the banks of the Zambezi River and flooded deltas across 16 districts in four provinces.

© UNICEF/HQ07-0109/Delvigne-Jean
UNICEF Education Officer Lisa Doherty (centre, in blue t-shirt) speaks with officials and residents at Chupanga Camp for displaced people in Sofala Province, Mozambique.

List of pressing needs

Down a dirt road at the camp, hundreds of new arrivals are waiting to be registered. Some wait in line; others sit 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.

Ms. Doherty walks through the crowd and speaks briefly with a group of women waiting with their babies. She finally reaches a tent where camp officials have set up their base.

The list of pressing needs is long: The newcomers need tents, plastic sheeting and mosquito nets to help prevent malaria. More latrines, jerry cans and water bladders are also needed to ensure safe water supplies and sanitation for the thousands of residents.

Another concern for Ms. Doherty is the number of children in the camp who are missing school. The local school is too small to accommodate hundreds of new students, and there are not enough school materials for everyone.

© UNICEF/HQ07-0113/Delvigne-Jean
Tents made of plastic sheeting provided by UNICEF in Chupanga Camp.

Supplies for local schools

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

But making sure that all the flood-affected children living in camps can get back to school quickly will be a tall order.

In addition to the tents for temporary classrooms, UNICEF is distributing school materials for thousands of children and their teachers as part of its immediate response to the emergency in Mozambique. Education supplies distributed to date include:

  • 25,000 learning kits, each containing basic supplies such as a school bag, books, pen and eraser
  • 2,000 school kits, each containing education and recreation supplies for a classroom
  • 800 teacher kits containing instructional materials.

‘Cluster approach’ to meet challenges

“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 HIV prevalence rates in the country and the largest number of orphaned and vulnerable children. UNICEF is working with local authorities to identify these children in the camps and ensure that they are protected against abuse.

To meet this and other challenges, UNICEF is collaborating with the government, sister UN agencies and non-governmental organizations in a multisectoral ‘cluster approach’, with UNICEF serving as the lead partner for nutrition; water, sanitation and hygiene; education; and child protection.



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