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DEVELOPMENT-MOZAMBIQUE: Waterlogged, and There May Be Worse to Come

Moyiga Nduru

JOHANNESBURG, Feb 20 2007 (IPS) - Mozambicans are bracing themselves for a cyclone that could spell further hardship for the 120,000 people devastated by floods over the past few weeks.

“Not only more rains, but Cyclone Favio may hit the southern part of Mozambique this week. The weather…indicates that the cyclone would most probably make landfall by February 22nd,” Eunice Mucahe, programme director in Mozambique for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told IPS from the capital, Maputo.

Favio is currently over the Indian Ocean.

“If the cyclone hits around Beira (a coastal city) then it could affect the people already affected by the floods,” Richard Lee, spokesman for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), said during an interview with IPS.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the WFP said it needed 12 million dollars to feed 900,000 people in Mozambique up to the end of 2007.

“But the people affected (by floods) are a priority at the moment. If the situation deteriorates, we may need more money,” Lee noted. “Discussions are underway for a joint appeal (with other agencies).”

For its part, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an appeal for 5.6 million dollars to support the affected people. Mucahe said this figure would be raised if new flooding were to cause more devastation.

The federation has also deployed 600 volunteers in flood-stricken provinces: Zambezia, Sofala, Manica and Tete are said to be most affected.

“The operation aims at providing temporary shelter to 100,000 people in the four affected provinces, as well as distributing 5,000 tents, 15,000 tarpaulins, 40,000 blankets, 20,000 kitchen sets, bars of soap and 40,000 mosquito nets,” Hanna Schmuck, head of the federation’s field assessment and coordination team in Maputo, was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the grouping.

“The appeal funds will also finance the provision of safe water to affected people and the construction of 500 latrines.”

Aid workers face a difficult task, however.

“At least 29 people have lost their lives; more than 46,000 homes have been washed away and approximately 88,600 people have been displaced. The government body responsible for disaster response estimates that 285,000 people may be affected in the worst-case scenario,” the federation statement observed, also noting that more than 100 schools, four health centres, roads, bridges and 15,000 hectares of crops have been destroyed.

“So far, tens of thousands of people have been evacuated by the army from the flooded Zambezi river valley, using helicopters and canoes.”

Lee dismissed fears that donor fatigue could undermine support for Mozambique’s flood victims: “I don’t think so. It’s only that there are many competing demands in places like Sudan and Chad.”

Mozambique is no stranger to widespread flooding. Between 2000 and 2001, floods resulted in the death of more than 700 people and the displacement of over a million others. Terrified flood victims had to be airlifted from submerged villages, with one woman even giving birth in a tree where she had hoped to escape the rising water.

“The 2000/2001 flood was a huge one. We were caught by surprise. This time the government is much stronger. It’s far better equipped and organised to respond to the crisis. The situation is under control,” Mucahe said.

Heavy rains have also taken a toll elsewhere in the region.

Last month, floods hit the Angolan capital of Luanda as well as Benguela and other western provinces, resulting in 90 deaths – this according to Action by Churches Together (ACT): a Swiss-based group that deals with a range of issues, including conflict resolution and the distribution of relief aid.

ACT met with eight church groups in Geneva on Jan. 26 to prepare for heavy rainfall in Angola between the end of February and early April.

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