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UN airlifts emergency food to thousands stranded by floods in Mozambique

UN airlifts emergency food to thousands stranded by floods in Mozambique

Following severe floods that left thousands of Mozambicans homeless and hungry, the United Nations has launched an emergency operation to airlift food to assist those in need.

"These desperately hungry people have lost almost everything and are completely dependent on food aid," said the UN World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director in Mozambique, Angela van Rynbach. "Using a helicopter is our only alternative since key roads are still under water or have been washed away."

WFP said villagers, especially the 2,600 people in the Javane area, have been totally cut off for an entire week since strong winds and rain from Cyclone Japhet caused serious damage in central Mozambique. The cyclone over-flooded the Save River, which then overflowed affecting some 50,000 people in the coastal lowlands during the first week of March. In addition, floods in Guvuru district also hit 25,000 people. Many fled their villages in search of higher ground, while others were left dangerously isolated.

On Sunday, a WFP helicopter made its first delivery of corn soya blend to stranded families. The South African-owned Mi-8 will move at least 200 tons of food into these isolated areas from WFP's emergency base in Save town. The agency also helped transport some 2,500 people to higher ground and set up food kitchens and displacement camps.

The torrential rain and flooding added an extra strain to a population already heavily burdened by the effects of the drought. In many cases, this will be the third or even fourth failed harvest in five years following floods in 1999 and 2000 and drought in 2002. Having exhausted traditional coping mechanisms in previous years, thousands of households will have no option but to rely on food aid.

"Every year this region seems to be struck by natural disaster, leaving tens of thousands of vulnerable people to battle for survival," said Ms. van Rynbach. "WFP will do its best to ensure that aid reaches all those in need but additional help will be required in the months ahead."

WFP is currently aiming to feed 650,000 drought-affected people in Gaza, Tete, Inhambane, Sofala, Manica and Maputo provinces. That number is expected to rise substantially in the coming year.