Mozambique Floods: The situation gets desperate as stocks run dry

Published: 8 February 2012 14:03 CET

By Tapiwa Gomo in Mozambique

The local authorities in Namacurra in Zambezia Province, Mozambique are appealing for urgent humanitarian assistance following the tropical cyclone Funso which hit the coastal areas of the province in the districts of Nicoadala, Pebane, Maganja da Costa, Namacurra, Quelimane and Chinde last month.

Information from the district office suggests that more than 13,000 families, or approximately 65,000 people, were severely affected in Namacurra alone. Given the demand for assistance, the local district administration and Mozambique had to make a decision to target the most vulnerable with the hope that more aid would come. 

“We are overwhelmed by requests for assistance and we cannot do much at this stage,” says Pedro Fazenda Sapange, the administrator for Namacurra district Red Cross. “After a quick assessment, with the help of the Mozambique Red Cross Society, we deployed response teams to provide assistance to those we thought were the most vulnerable. These include the elderly, widowed and child-headed families, and the sick.” Many more people outside these groups have been affected by the floods, but limited funds meant it was important to prioritize the most vulnerable.  

Sapange said that the slow response may lead to starvation and disease outbreaks. “There is a serious need for food assistance, as most families lost their crops to the cyclone and floods. So far we have seen people prematurely harvesting their cassava which they normally harvest in June and July,” he said. Moreover, the wet conditions may trigger malaria, cholera and diarrhoea cases among the affected communities. There is an urgent need for mosquito nets, clean water and hygiene promotion.

Many affected families were left homeless as the cyclone ripped the roofs from their homes. Others moved in with their friends or relatives. Jelita Alfonso Carvalho and her four young children managed to escape from their collapsing house, but now face serious challenges. “When our house collapsed that night, I moved to a late relative’s dilapidated house for shelter as no one was willing to accommodate five people at once let alone feed them,” she said. As well as losing her home, the garden was also destroyed. “I was hoping I could harvest and sell the crop. We’d have food and I could send my children to school,” she said.

The family would normally grow rice in the larger piece of land, and vegetables in the backyard garden but since her husband died, Carvalho’s health is slowly letting her down. She is among the few who have received assistance from the Mozambique Red Cross Society. “With the tarpaulin provided by the Mozambique Red Cross, I can now shelter my children but we urgently need food,” she said.

Americo Ubisse, Secretary General of the Mozambique Red Cross said that the needs had now surpassed what the organization had prepared for. “Our prepositioned stocks have run out and yet the needs are increasing,” he said. “Aid is needed to reduce human suffering. Our volunteers are ready to take on the challenge to take on the saving lives.”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies released 297,349 Swiss francs to support the Mozambique Red Cross Society to in their response efforts. An additional appeal is set to be launched to assist tens of thousands of families in need of shelter, food, mosquito nets and clean water.