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Partnering to deliver aid those displaced by floods in the Zambezi valley

UNICEF Image: Mozambique, floods
© UNICEF video
Rescue boats have been evacuating people from their homes along the Zambezi River Valley, following heavy rains and floods.

By Sarah Crowe and Jabu Tugwana

MUTARA, Mozambique, 23 January 2008 – With flood waters rising fast over the vast Zambezi valley in Mozambique, it’s a race against time to get help to thousands of people stranded from the floods.

71,000 people have already been evacuated, but early and heavy rains in the neighbouring countries of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi have destroyed livelihoods. Thousands of hectares of maize fields are under water, arable land has been lost and homesteads have been washed away or left as thatched 'islands' in fast-flowing rivers.

The Mozambique National Institute of Disaster Management has so far reported only seven deaths, however, aid is very much needed for thousands who are currently seeking shelter in resettlement centres.

Anita and Tomas Serao were separated from the rest of their family as rescue boats evacuated the couple and their neighbors from their flooded homes, bringing them to the Paue Resettlement Centre in Mutarara.

“We lost everything in our old home – pots, pans, clothes, everything,” said Anita. “Now we are just hoping to find the rest of the family again.”

Partnering to help the flood-affected

The Mozambican authorities have spearheaded the aid effort, coordinating closely with UN agencies. Search and rescue operations are in full swing in areas like Caia and Mutarara, where the level of the Zambezi River continues to exceed alert levels.

Supplies of food, latrines, plastic sheeting and cans have been pre-positioned in warehouses and are being distributed to temporary shelters. Aid is starting to reach more inaccessible areas by truck and boat, where UNICEF is also distributing 15,000 insecticide treated bed nets and water treatment kits.

© UNICEF/HQ08-0038/Delvigne Jean
A UNICEF staff member speaks with a girl who has been displaced by the flooding at the Baue Resettlement Centre in Mutarara District. The centre, which was established after the 2007 floods, is providing basic supplies and services.

Challenges ahead

Many Mozambicans have yet to recover from last year’s floods and are still utilizing supplies from previous aid operations. Even at the best of times, the homes of those who live along the Zambezi River are under threat from heavy seasonal rains and erratic weather patterns.

The coming weeks will still present challenges as residents bear down and await the worst of the rains, which are expected to come in mid-February.

Said Project Officer for Water Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Maputo, Domingos Chiconela: “We are focusing now on training people here in how to deal with things like water-borne diseases, the correct use of latrines and hand washing, so that when we leave this area the locals will be able to cope with this emergency.”




22 January 2008:
UNICEF correspondent Sarah Crowe reports on humanitarian aid and rescue efforts in flood-affected areas of Mozambique.
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