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Mozambique, 28 January 2015: Malaria major concern in displacement centres after flooding

© UNICEF Mozambique/ Massimiliano Sani
Nita Alves, a mother of three, spent days clinging to a tree with her children to escape the flooding. They are now all safe at the Ronda – Furquia displacement centre, in Namacurra, Zambezia.

By Rui Alfaro Esmael and Massimiliano Sani

28 January 2015, ZAMBEZIA, Mozambique – “The water came suddenly in the middle of the afternoon”, says Nita Alves, recalling the day her village was flooded a couple of weeks ago. “There was nowhere to escape so I climbed into a tree with my three children, tied them up around me with my capulana* and prayed to God we wouldn’t fall.”

Nita and her children spent 5 days in the tree, almost dying of thirst and hunger. And they were not alone. The trees around them were full of people, clinging to the branches for dear life. Some didn’t make it.

“One lady lost her new born, who suffered a blow to the head and died,” says Nita. “She kept him in her arms for three days, hoping the waters would recede enough for her to give him a proper burial. But they never did. She had to let him go in the currents.”

Weeks of heavy rains earlier in the year have caused severe flooding of river basins in the central and northern part of Mozambique, prompting Government to declare a red alert, the highest level of response. The flooding has affected entire communities, cut off roads and power supply, destroyed bridges, houses, and schools, mainly in Zambezia and Nampula provinces. Nita is one of more than 50,000 people who were forced to flee their homes to save their lives.

Finally, boats reached Nita and her children, and she says she felt immense relief. They were all rescued and taken to a school, but have since moved to a displacement centre in Ronda – Furquia, in Namacurra. There are about 310 families here, in a camp that already was hosting about 480 families, displaced by earlier floods. This has put immense pressure on the centre’s services.

© UNICEF Mozambique/'Rui Esmael
Nita at the clinic with nurse Andrico Nametabala, who says that malaria is a major concern at the Ronda-Furquia displacement center, which shelters about 2,600 people, a large majority of whom are women and children.

There is a small clinic, a water pump, large school tents. Nita and her children share a tent with her father and his family.

Distribution of food rations and shelter kits have begun, but not all families have received them yet. Nita says it is not easy, but she is grateful for the medical services.

“This morning my child and I both had a fever, and were tested for malaria at the clinic. The nurse gave us medicine.”

Malaria has become a major concern at the centre. The clinic’s nurse, Andrico Nametabala, says that in one week, he registered 172 cases, of which about 90 were children under the age of 5. Acute respiratory infections, parasites and conjunctivitis are also increasing, he says.

"Most of them got malaria when they were in the trees, trying to escape the floods,” he reckons.
Andrico is the only nurse at the center, which has a population of about 2,600, about 70% of whom are women and children. With 10 activists and a community health worker, they are distributing mosquito nets and water treatment products.

“We definitely need more food, shelter and cooking utensils. Our families lost everything,” he says.

The Government of Mozambique has requested immediate assistance from humanitarian partners, and the UN is rapidly preparing a request to the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to cover the most urgent life-saving needs. Additional assistance will be sought through a Response and Recovery Proposal being simultaneously developed for donors.

The violent flooding left severe destruction in its wake, especially in Zambezia, where communities remain stranded. Waters are receding now, though access remains an obstacle for rescue and humanitarian operations. Shelter, food, water, family kits, sanitation and health services are a priority in these first weeks of the response.

* A capulana is a traditional Mozambican fabric, worn by women as a wrap-around skirt.

UNICEF ACTION

Coordination

  • Supporting national disaster management authorities in Mozambique
  • Coordinating the humanitarian response with line ministries, the humanitarian country team, and clusters.
  • Leading in WASH and Nutrition clusters, active membership in Health, Education and Protection clusters.
  • Coordinating support in communication and social mobilisation.

Supplies

  • Water treatment products, buckets, jerricans and sanitation slabs to the largest accommodation centres in Zambezia to support 50,000 people
  • 30-day emergency nutritional supplies for 3,000 children
  • Seven clinic tents and health kits for 10,000 people
  • Family kits for especially vulnerable families, and psychosocial support tools for social protection officers
  • Power generators to community radio stations and support to produce and broadcast lifesaving messages
  • Hygiene and health promotion materials to equip at least 500 activists in accommodation centres
  • 6,000 leaflets on life-saving practices for caregivers and schoolchildren
  • 11 school tents, and learning kits for 10,000 children.

 
For more information, please contact:

Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique, Tel: (+258) 21 481 100, gpereira@unicef.org

 

 
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