The United Nations is stepping up relief operations in central Mozambique as a sharp rise in floodwaters along the Zambezi River in the past 48 hours uproots yet more people to join the tens of thousands already displaced.
“The number of people displaced is fast reaching a critical mass,” the representative of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Leila Pakkala, said today. “Urgent action is crucial to prevent outbreaks of diseases, which are of great concern at the onset of a crisis, especially among children.”
An estimated 50,000 people have already been evacuated to resettlement centres across four provinces. The floods have hit some of the poorest and most isolated communities in the country, where access to social services is limited.
Concerned by the impending humanitarian situation, UNICEF sent a second emergency team today to Mutarara, one of the worst-hit areas. A first response team was deployed to Caia last week to support local disaster management authorities in the initial relief effort.
The UN Country Team has also established a presence in Caia to help the local government respond to the emergency.
UNICEF teams are working with local authorities and humanitarian partners on the ground to respond to the health and nutritional needs of women and children, seeking to ensure that cholera prevention steps are taken and support services are available.
Insecticide-treated mosquito nets are also being distributed with support from UNICEF to prevent cases of malaria in the flooded areas. The malaria season is peaking, and standing water increases breeding conditions for mosquitoes carrying the disease, the main cause of child deaths in the country.
Safe supplies of drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities are being provided to avoid the spread of water-borne diseases and improve sanitary conditions for displaced communities.
In collaboration with education authorities, UNICEF and the Save the Children Alliance are distributing tents and school kits to ensure that children who have been evacuated to resettlement centres with their families can get back into school when the school year begins in late January. So far, 47 schools have been damaged by the flooding.
Localized flooding is common in Mozambique during the southern Africa rainy season from November to March and also has affected neighbouring countries. Last year, some 285,000 people were affected. Mozambique is among the world’s 20 poorest countries, ranking 172 out of 177 countries on the 2007 Human Development Index. About 58 per cent of children live below the poverty line.