Mozambique: UN starts airlifting food to thousands of flood victims

15 February 2007

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has started rescue and food delivery missions with a chartered helicopter in central Mozambique where the worst flooding in years has forced some 85,000 people to flee their homes.

The Mi-8 helicopter, flying from the town of Caia and coordinated by the Government's National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC), delivered 2.5 metric tons of WFP food yesterday and began rescue missions, flying to Cocorico island where 120 people were trapped by floodwaters. The Mi-8 is continuing food delivery today.

WFP and its partners began distributing food aid this week to 2,000 people in temporary accommodation centres in Caia district and to 6,100 people in Mutarara district of Tete Province.

Heavy rains in central and northern Mozambique and neighbouring Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe over the last month flooded the Zambezi, Chire and Rivubue rivers, and officials estimate that as many as 285,000 people may need food and other assistance for the next few months in a worst-case scenario. Flood waters in some areas are nearing levels last seen during the catastrophic floods of 2001.

The INGC said yesterday the situation was under control, but with nearly a month left of the rainy season and continued heavy downpours in neighbouring Zambia and Malawi, the situation could worsen in the weeks ahead. If the government can control outflows from the Cahora Bassa Dam and rains in neighbouring countries decline, flooding on a scale similar to 2001 could be averted.

The Government has deployed troops to evacuate people from the worst-hit areas, but some people have refused to leave their homes, their land and their livestock.

WFP and other in-country humanitarian agencies will soon launch an appeal to support the Government’s efforts, including food, air operations for rescue and delivery of relief supplies, and telecommunications to facilitate coordination of the response. Some 40,000 hectares of crops have been lost at a time when they are in their peak growing and development period ahead of the April/May harvest.

So far this year, flooding has also hit Angola, Madagascar, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. WFP has responded across the region, but faces a critical shortfall in funding for all its operations in southern Africa, requiring $105 million through to the end of 2007.


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