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Mozambique, 6 April 2015: Life after the floods

Life after the floods
© UNICEF Mozambique/2015/Yolanda Correia
26-year-old Melquelina Ernesto, a mother of five, at the Cajual accommodation center in Zambézia.

By Yolanda Correia

6 April 2015, ZAMBÉZIA, Mozambique – “I’ve lost everything in the waters. But, God willing, life will get better,” says 26-year-old Melquelina Ernesto, a mother of five, at the Cajual accommodation center in Zambézia, Northern Mozambique, where she was living for more than a month with her children after the floods destroyed their house.

“I have had good days and bad days here,” she says. “It is not easy to live in a tent. On a normal day I wake up, take care of my children, do the laundry and cook so my children can eat before going to school. But this kind of environment is not good for family life. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the support I have received such as food, shelter, water and even school for three of my children: Nela who is 12, Neidi who is 9 and Nelson who is 7.”

The heavy rains and floods earlier in the year affected more than 29,500 families in Zambezia. Melquelina and her children are among the 45,000 people estimated to have been displaced in the province. Her house was one of the 11,641 totally or partially destroyed. She lost everything. Her husband is trying to provide for their family by selling potatoes at a market nearby.

Even before the floods, the UN has been providing support to strengthen access to health services in Zambézia, including family planning, as well as education, WASH and protection. The province’s key indicators are among the lowest in Mozambique. The floods however have further exacerbated the vulnerability of the population.

Two of Melquelina’s children, Neidi and Nelson, were in school at the Cajual center. School and learning kits, as well as school tents were distributed, but not in sufficient numbers. Despite existing gaps in learning materials, children were eager to go back to school.

“I like my school because I am learning how to read and write,” said Neidi, while at Cajual center. “Some of my former school friends are also here and I’ve made new friends too.”

Soon after we talked to Melquelina in February, she and her family were resettled in Macuvine. Since the situation in Zambézia has been improving, temporary accommodation centers, such as Cajual, have been shut down and permanent resettlement centers, like the one in Macuvine, have been established.

“I am happy to have moved to Macuvine. It is safer than my former village, which was flooded,” she says. “We are still living in a tent, but soon my husband and I will be able to rebuild a safer home for our family. I am also glad that my children are already attending the local school.”

Melquelina and her children have been benefiting from the humanitarian assistance provided by the national disaster agency INGC with the support of NGOs and the United Nations. Around 140,000 people have so far been reached with food assistance. Around 75,000 bottles of water disinfectant, enough for 357,000 people, were also distributed to prevent cholera. Over 23,000 school-aged children have received school materials.

Preliminary figures from a World Bank, European Union, and UN-led assessment indicate that almost $11m will be needed for reconstruction, and this is for structural recovery alone. The cost will inevitably increase once the INGC/UN-led assessment on human recovery is completed.   

“The United Nations have been providing support during the emergency to cover the most urgent life-saving needs in shelter, water, hygiene, sanitation, food security, protection and logistics in Zambézia,” said Jennifer Topping, UN Resident Coordinator and Chairperson of the Humanitarian Country Team in Mozambique, who visited local authorities and flood affected populations in March. “We now continue to work to support the government and other partners in early recovery.”

For more information, please contact:

Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique,



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