March 08, 2007

Mopeia/Geneva, March 8, 2007 – An estimated 136,000 people have been displaced in Mozambique due to floods that affected the provinces surrounding the Zambezi river at the end of January 2007. Despite optimism over the initial aid response, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) expresses concern over the health situation of flood victims in Zambezia Province. MSF calls on the Mozambican government and humanitarian aid groups to urgently step up their interventions to ensure that food and non-food relief supplies reach the thousands of families affected by the floods.

With humanitarian assistance concentrated in the Mutarrara and Caia areas, as well as Vilankulo city, which were hit by the Favio cyclone in late February, more than 25,000 displaced people of the Mopeia and Morrumbala districts are still left to their own devices and have yet to receive any assistance in food or other basic necessities. With the local response capacity reaching its limits, an international mobilization is crucial to avoid a worsening of the flood victims' health conditions.

"The real extent of the crisis is still hard to determine," explains Bruno Lab, Head of Mission for MSF in Mozambique. "The joint response of the Mozambican government, local, and international organizations has prevented the worst from happening. However, the cycle of drought, cyclones, and flooding in other provinces of the country has diminished the Mozambican assistance capacity." Logistical challenges are of particular concern, with access to the large flood-affected area by land being extremely difficult. Additional sea and air transportation are needed to bring the necessary goods–currently in storage facilities–to the displaced population.

Signs of tension have been reported within the displaced communities gathered in Nowere, Braz, Valete, and Calangana because of the significant lack of food. "These people left everything behind as they were trying to get away from the floods," says Véronique Mulloni, a logistician specializing in water, hygiene, and sanitation. "Up to now, they have survived thanks to fishing. All they have for their daily chores is a few jerry cans and a couple of kitchen sets. They have to live in makeshift grass huts and have only limited access to health care."

Two weeks after regrouping the displaced population in safer areas, new gathering sites are established every day, with hundreds of new families registered. Up to now, about 40 centers have been reported in the areas.

Since the beginning of the floods at the end of January 2007, MSF has been concentrating its interventions in several districts in the Zambezia and Tete Provinces. The main objective is to provide basic assistance, including shelter, water and sanitation, and distribution of food and non-food items, to 50,000 displaced people. The MSF teams are also giving support to the Mozambican health authorities by delivering primary healthcare services in the gathering centers, as well as by carrying out epidemiological surveillance. MSF has been working in Mozambique since 1984.

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