Mozambique News Agency

No.177, 1st March 2000


Government appeals for over $65 million

The Mozambican government on 23 February appealed to the international community for over $65.5 million to help rebuild the areas that have been shattered by catastrophic flooding.

Introducing the appeal, Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao said that the flooding has caused at least 70 deaths, and affected at least 300,000 people in seven of the country's 11 provinces.

Access to isolated areas, so that food and other assistance can be taken to the victims, has been made difficult by the destruction of roads and bridges. This has meant heavy and expensive reliance on helicopters.

The largest single item in the appeal is for the repair of roads and bridges, costed at $30.5 million. The repair of railway lines will cost over $5.9 million, and rehabilitation of the damaged electricity grid requires $4.5 million.

Food aid is costed at $7.1 million, for the period up to mid-August. This is to provide flood victims with a basic ration of maize, beans, oil and sugar. It is also planned to provide high-energy biscuits to children and to adults suffering from malnutrition.

The appeal document points out that 100,000 hectares of cultivated land has been flooded in Maputo and Gaza provinces, with the loss of up to 50,000 hectares in the central provinces of Sofala, Manica and Tete. This loss of crops "is already twice as high as any previous recorded loss due to floods", the document says.

A further $2.4 million is requested for health care, particularly for disease control and prevention. The floods have presented ideal conditions for the spread of cholera and other water borne diseases. As the waters subside they will leave behind stagnant pools that become breeding grounds for mosquitos, almost certainly leading to a substantial increase in cases of malaria.

The appeal also has components of $7 million for the supply of clean water, $1.5 million for shelter and resettlement, and $3 million for agriculture. Most of the latter is to provide peasant farmers with seeds and tools so that they can replant as soon as the flood waters have drained from their fields.

Prime Minister briefs assembly on floods

At least 150 people have died in the flooding in central and southern Mozambique, and dozens of others are missing, Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi told the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 1 March.

Briefing the Assembly on the floods, he said that a definitive death toll could only be given once the waters had subsided, communications could be re-established and it would be possible "to assess with greater precision the number of lives lost in this present disaster".

Mocumbi said that the number of people directly affected by the floods has risen to 900,000, of whom over 300,000 have been displaced from their homes.

The economic losses were enormous. Mocumbi said that over 100,000 hectares of crops have been washed away, and over 40,000 head of cattle have drowned.

The irrigation systems at the towns of Chokwe and Sabie have been destroyed, as have protective dikes at Buzi, Chokwe and Xai- Xai.

The Maputo-Zimbabwe railway is severely damaged, as are many roads, electricity transmission lines, and water supply and sanitation systems.

These problems will lead to increased vulnerability to disease, and to shortages of consumer goods, particularly in those towns and villages which may not themselves have suffered flooding, but have been isolated by the floods. Mocumbi said that about two million people could be expected to suffer these secondary effects.

"Experience shows us that, over time, some of these people, particularly in the rural areas, may become vulnerable to food and nutrition insecurity, since their already precarious ability to support themselves has been reduced still further", the Prime Minister added.

Mocumbi warned that the flood drama was by no means over. There was a strong possibility that other river valleys in the centre and north of the country could be affected. He pointed out that the Pungue river in Sofala province is rising. If there is a large flood on the Pungue, this could cut the road between Beira and Zimbabwe.

Furthermore, water from Malawi was pouring down the Shire river into the Zambezi: this could threaten flooding on the lower Zambezi, which would affect parts of Sofala and Zambezia provinces.

"Intensive rescue missions" are continuing in the Limpopo valley in Gaza province, Mocumbi said, and so far about 9,000 people have been rescued from the flooded cities of Chokwe and Xai-Xai and elsewhere on the lower Limpopo. Some of these people had spent 72 hours trapped by the raging waters before they could be picked up from trees or rooftops.

In Inhambane province, the district of Govuro, on the south bank of the Save river "is 100 per cent affected", said the prime minister. The locality of Jofane, in particular, was "totally isolated" and could only be reached by air.

In Sofala province, on the north bank of the Save, the waters "have invaded all the residential areas of Machanga district". About 500 people had been rescued from Machanga and flown to safety.

Mocumbi said that in Maputo province, where the waters of the Incomati river are now subsiding, the immediate rescue operations were over, and "intensive work is under way to distribute relief goods, including essential medicines".

In Maputo and Matola cities land for housing was being attributed for flood victims, who would be resettled in less vulnerable areas.

Although meteorologists had predicted an abnormally wet southern African rainy season, the scale of the February flooding had been way beyond anything that could have been forecast, said Mocumbi. The floods on the Incomati, Limpopo, Save and Buzi rivers were the largest on record, while that on the Umbeluzi, west of Maputo, "approached its historical extreme".

Should there be further flooding in the centre and north of the country, the number of people in need of relief could rise to over a million and a half.

Malaria and diarrhoea rises among victims

About 100 cases of malaria and diarrhoea are reported everyday in centres accommodating the victims of floods in Maputo, according to a source in the Mozambican Red Cross (CVM), cited in "Noticias" on 1 March.

Alfredo Chioze, the CVM secretary for Maputo city, said that his organisation has first aid brigades in all 10 of the accommodation centres in the capital.

Despite the malaria and diarrhoea cases, he described the situation as under control. He said that health workers visit the accommodation centres every day to supervise the work done by the CVM first aid agents, and give the necessary advice.

Cholera diagnosed

At least three cases of cholera were diagnosed in February in Maputo city, where a major outbreak of the disease is feared, as a result of difficulties in obtaining clean drinking water following the torrential rains and flooding. 10 deaths from cholera have been reported in Beira, Sofala province.

Maputo city health director Olivia Ferreira, said on 25 February that cholera prophylaxis and vaccination against meningitis are being administered in the accommodation centres and 2,500 people have been immunised.

Speaking of malaria and diarrhoeal diseases, Ferreira said that the number of cases is growing alarmingly, and the health authorities are preparing to open a special ward for malaria in the Infulene psychiatric hospital, on the outskirts of Maputo.

As for the necessary medicines, she said that there are enough stocks both for cholera and for malaria.

Xai-Xai under water

The level of the Limpopo river at the flooded city of Xai-Xai, capital of the southern province of Gaza, is still rising.

A reporter for the independent newsheet "Metical", who took a boat ride through the low-lying part of the city on 29 February, says that two-storey buildings are now submerged up to their roofs. Dead cattle could be seen floating in the flood waters.

Many people are on terraces and rooftops hoping to be rescued. Whenever a boat goes past they shout for help.

Seven boats are involved in the Xai-Xai rescue efforts. On 29 February they were able to rescue everybody who had taken refuge in the city's meteorology station. That still left people trapped on the roof of the driving school, at the provincial transport directorate, at the flooded aerodrome, and on the bridge over the Limpopo. There were some 400 people on the bridge, and the river had risen to just 20 or 30 centimetres below the platform of the bridge.

By late afternoon the seven boats had moved 462 people to safe areas. The work was slow because even the four larger vessels cannot carry more than eight people at a time, and every now and then the operation stops for refuelling.

The exact level and rate of flow of the Limpopo can no longer be known exactly, since much of the measuring equipment has been submerged, but it is thought that the river at Chibuto, in between Chokwe and Xai-Xai is continuing to rise.

A spokesperson for the southern regional water board (ARA- Sul) said that a further flood peak was travelling down the river, thanks to the continued heavy rains in South Africa.

A further consequence of the Limpopo flood has been to knock out the supply of electricity from the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi to South Africa, and hence to southern Mozambique.

Flood in Chokwe worsens

The situation in the flooded town of Chokwe on the middle reaches of the Limpopo river in the southern province of Gaza is said to be worsening, according to "Noticias" on 28 February.

Many residents have been clinging on to rooftops and trees for survival, without water and communications.

Cyclone Eline hits Mozambique

Cyclone Eline smashed its way across parts of central and southern Mozambique on 22 February. As the cyclone hit, four people died in the port city of Beira, and two in Quelimane, capital of Zambezia province.

In the poorer parts of Beira, the winds, of up to 60 kilometres an hour, blew the roofs off dozens of homes build of flimsy materials, and knocked down about 90 wooden electricity pylons.

According to the mayor of Beira, Chivavice Muchangage, four people lost their lives when the cyclone knocked down electricity pylons and cables. After the cyclone, the entire port of Beira was temporarily closed in order to allow the authorities to verify the position of the navigation buoys.

In the neighbouring province of Inhambane, the district of Vilankulo was worst hit, with rainfall of 99.8 millimetres in 24 hours. There was damage to roads and electricity supplies in Vilankulo, and the local hospital was deprived of its power supply.

International aid

SA minister pledges support

South African Air Force personnel and aircraft involved in rescue operations are to stay in the country for at least another week, South African Defence Minister Mosioua Lekota promised on 29 February.

Lekota was speaking to reporters after he visited Mozambique to see for himself the dramatic situation in the river valleys affected by catastrophic flooding.

Currently, South Africa has 82 men and 12 aircraft involved in the rescue operations in Mozambique.

British aid for flood victims

The British government has hired, from the southern African region, five helicopters to be used in rescue operations for the victims of floods in Mozambique. It has also announced that it will send two planes with emergency service and fire brigade staff.

The planes will also carry 69 inflatable boats with their respective engines, and vehicles equipped with satellite communications.

The British Secretary for International Development, George Foulkes, said that "we have managed to mobilise three 'Puma' helicopters in Mozambique, that were out of use, which brings the total number to five".

He said that money is not the problem, announcing that his government has spent about $6.5 million during the last 24 hours alone, in support for the flood victims. Four other helicopters from the Royal Air Force are to be dispatched to Mozambique for rescue operations.

A source of the Mozambican Defence Ministry said that, following a meeting with British authorities it was decided that the British army would also be called upon to play a role in rescue operations.

Disasters Emergency Committee launch appeal

The British Disasters Emergency Committee has launched an appeal to help the victims of the flooding.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) has 14 member aid agencies. These are:

CARE International;
Children's Aid Direct;
Christian Aid;
Concern Worlwide;
Help the Aged;
MERLIN (Medical Emergency Relief International);
Save the Children;
The British Red Cross;
The Christian Children's Fund of Great Britain;
World Vision UK.

Those wishing to give to the DEC appeal can do so by visiting the web site at Payments can be made by credit card

US humanitarian aid

A C-17 aircraft of the United States Air Force is on its way to Maputo to deliver more humanitarian aid to the Mozambique's flood victims.

The consignment consists of plastic material to be used for sheltering more than 10,000 people, 6,000 twenty-litre water containers, 2,400 woollen blankets and 13,000 tonnes of biscuits, says the release.

The United Sates Agency for International Development (USAID) has announced that it will contribute $1 million dollars earmarked for air transport rescue operations. This takes the US contribution to $1,725,000.

Italian flood aid

The Italian government is to organise a further humanitarian flight with emergency aid for the victims of floods in Sofala province.

The first such flight, from Italy, arrived in Maputo on 17 February, and was meant for the victims in the southern region of the country, that was the first to be hit by the floods.

The second flight will include tents, rubber dinghies with the respective engines, power generators, foodstuffs and kits of medicines and medical equipment, enough to cater for about 20,000 people for three months.

Spain promises further assistance

The Spanish government on 17 February, through its International Cooperation Agency, has promised to grant further material aid to help relieve the suffering of flood victims. The aid will consists of kitchen kits, tents, 15 litre water containers, first aid kits, medicines, blankets, and soap.

The total value of the aid is estimated at $200,000, including transport. This is in addition to about $60,000 which has already been granted, and is being managed by the Spanish Embassy's Cooperation office.

World Bank supports victims of floods

The World Bank is to grant about $2.5 million in support of the victims of the floods.

This aid, to be channelled through the International Development Agency (IDA), comes in response to an appeal addressed by Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano to the international community.

Jubilee 2000 calls for debt cancellation

The London-based coalition of NGOs, Jubilee 2000, has called for the urgent cancellation of all of Mozambique's foreign debts, in the wake of the disastrous flooding in the south and centre of the country.

On 29 February Jubilee 2000 welcomed the announcement that the British government will stop collecting debt repayments from Mozambique. However, it pointed out that Britain is owed just $150 million by Mozambique (out of a total debt of over $5 billion) and without further action by other creditors, including the IMF and World Bank, the debt burden in Mozambique will remain a severe barrier to reconstruction and long-term economic development.

According to Jubilee 2000, Mozambique is currently paying $1.4 million every week to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and western governments. The NGO stated that Mozambique is due to receive some debt cancellation in April 2000, but after this it will still expected to pay out around $1.1 million each week - a reduction of just 15 per cent.

Jubilee 2000 has urged creditors "to stop taking payments now", saying Mozambique desperately needs to keep the dollars it currently pays out.

Flooding changes government programme

Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on 24 February admitted that the catastrophic flooding has forced the government to revise this year's plan and budget, due to be put before the next session of the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, scheduled to begin on 29 February.

In particularly, money earmarked for secondary and tertiary roads might now have to be spent on repairing the trunk road network, and particularly the main north-south highway, washed away by the floods in several places.

As for this year's harvest, Mocumbi said all was far from lost. The most fertile parts of the country are in the northern provinces: they have not suffered from flooding and are expected to produce a good harvest.

In the south "we can still recover", Mocumbi insisted, but only if there was immediate replanting once the flood waters subsided. That required providing farmers, not only with adequate supplies of seeds, but also with new tools.

Traditionally Mozambique has always found it easier to persuade donors to supply food aid, than to supply the means with which to produce food. Mocumbi lamented that "some of our partners don't understand our insistence on seeds and tools".

The government's top priorities, he said, remained humanitarian assistance for the flood victims, and reopening access roads into the affected areas, so that relief goods could be taken in by road.

Government to negotiate with Renamo

The Mozambican government is to meet the leadership of Renamo in a move aimed at discussing its "accommodation", according to a government source. However, the government has made it clear that Renamo's insistent demand for a recount of the votes cast in the December general election will not be entertained.

The source told AIM on 1 March that Renamo had asked the government to "facilitate" its participation in companies that have already been privatised, or are to be privatised, so that the financial problems affecting some of its leaders can be resolved.

Currently, Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama is under pressure from some of his former officers, now demobilised, who allege that they were duped during the 16 years of the Mozambican war of destabilisation, and are now demanding jobs and other forms of support so that they can support their families.

On 27 February six former Renamo officers published a letter in the Maputo weekly "Domingo" protesting that they had been "thrown on the garbage heap" by Dhlakama.

The source said that the proposed negotiations could be at the highest level, involving President Joaquim Chissano and Afonso Dhlakama.

Assembly sets up commissions

The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 29 February set up its seven working commissions.

All the commissions have 15 members - eight appointed by the majority Frelimo Party, and seven by the opposition Renamo- Electoral Union. The chairpersons and rapporteurs are as follows:

The Assembly also set up a 15 member ad-hoc commission charged with revising the Assembly's standing orders and the Statute of Deputies (the document concerning rights, duties and privileges of deputies). At Renamo's insistence the ad-hoc commission's remit will also cover restructuring the Assembly secretariat. The ad-hoc commission is chaired by Sergio Vieira, of Frelimo, with Manuel Franque of Renamo as its rapporteur.

Agreement on site for steel slabs factory

The United States corporation Enron and the Maputo provincial government signed a memorandum of understanding on 17 February under which land for the construction of a factory making steel slabs will be granted to Enron at Beluluane, 17 kilometres west of Maputo city.

Construction of the factory, known as MISP (Maputo Iron and Steel Project), is scheduled to begin in 2002, and should be concluded in 2004.

MISP is the anchor project for the use of the natural gas from Pande in Inhambane province: Enron's plan is to use the gas in the iron ore reduction process prior to the manufacture of the steel slabs. The ore itself is expected to come largely from Phalaborwa in South Africa.

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