March 01, 2000

MSF Concerned About the Risk of Epidemics

New York, March 2, 2000 — Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is conducting an emergency relief intervention in the Gaza, Inhambane, and Maputo provinces of flood-stricken Mozambique. Contaminated water and the lack of shelter and medicines are increasing the risk of cholera and malaria epidemics. More than 1,000,000 people are affected and an estimated 300,000 have been left homeless in the worst flooding to hit Mozambique in over thirty years.

"Our greatest concern is access to the people who are still trapped on the roofs of their houses and in trees--there are not enough means of transport to rescue them. With just a few helicopters, it is not possible to assist thousands of stranded victims. If the water rises again, the situation will seriously worsen. The great density of the displaced populations and the extremely precarious conditions in the affected regions also increase the risk of epidemics, especially cholera," said Thomas Nierle, Emergency Coordinator.

Volunteer teams of medical, logistical, and water sanitation specialists are working in Gaza and Inhambane provinces, where transit centers have been established for the displaced. MSF teams in the town of Chokwe report that an estimated 25,000 people have been stranded for several days on the roofs and in the trees, which stand just above the waters of the Limpopo River. The number of people drowning is multiplying and predictions of another cyclone in the region this week threatens to compound an already precarious humanitarian situation.

In the town of Macia in Gaza province, MSF is providing health care, potable water, and sanitation support in a transit camp for approximately 5,000 displaced people and an additional 10,000 people staying with host families. MSF is a working to prepare the region to receive more displaced people from unsafe areas of Chokwe and Chakalan. Food, shelter materials, and non-food items are desperately needed.

MSF has already dispatched 37 metric tons of emergency aid, including medicines, hygiene and sanitation material, water purification tablets, blankets, emergency shelter, and cholera treatment kits. Additional relief materials and personnel are en route.

"The area will stay under water for days, which will have heavy consequences on the population. The flooded zones are agricultural. These arable lands will be unusable for a long time, which makes the disaster even worse," said Jean-Christophe Azé, Desk Officer for Mozambique.

Over 20 international MSF volunteers are working in the three hardest-hit provinces of Mozambique, assisting in rescues and offering medical aid, medicines, and clean drinking water, and supporting health structures. MSF has been working in Mozambique since 1983.