As fears of the possibility of one of the worst ever floods in Mozambique intensify, a new report has found that most households affected by flooding last year are yet to recover and are experiencing severe food insecurity.
The report by Save the Children UK, which based its findings on a survey in October 2007 of 181 households affected by the floods in the Mopeia and Morrumbala districts of Zambézia Province during February-March 2007, said 70 percent had only a month's supply of cereals.
During the 2007 floods government authorities moved affected people to resettlement areas located on higher ground. More than 80 percent of households in resettlement areas, and 75 percent outside of them, are facing extreme food shortages, said the report, Food Security & Livelihood Analysis in two districts affected by floods: Mopeia And Morrumbala, Zambézia.
"The situation has not changed much - the affected people remain vulnerable until the next harvest in March/April," said Chris McIvor, director of Save the Children UK.
A red alert was issued on 3 January after heavy rain over the past few weeks caused a sharp rise in water levels in the Zambezi, Pungue, Buzi and Save rivers. Mozambique's disaster management agency (INGC) estimates that so far approximately 56,000 people have been affected, including 13,000 people who were relocated to resettlement centres.
"We are now concerned that we could be facing worse floods than 2007 - the Cahora Bassa Dam [on the Zambezi River in Tete Province in the northwest] has now been forced to increase its discharges to 6,000 cubic metres a second - while the inflow is 7,600 cubic metres a second - to cope with a massive inflow of water into Cahora Bassa lake from Zambia and Zimbabwe," McIvor said.
The amount of water being discharged should be the same as the inflow. "We are only at the beginning of the rainy season, and these were the figures when we had the flooding in February/March 2007," he added.
An estimated 285,000 people were affected and 29 were killed in the Zambezi River basin in 2007, during the worst floods to hit the country in six years.
Besides the threat of flooding by water discharged from the Cahora Bassa Dam, Zambézia Province, which forms part of the Zambezi River basin, is also affected by the amount of rainfall in neighbouring Malawi, where heavy rains have been forecast.
Food security generally poor
The food security of subsistence farmer families in the Mopeia and Morrumbala districts is generally poor and has been exacerbated by recurrent floods, according to Peter Keller-Transburg, Public Information and Reports Officer of the World Food Programme (WFP) in Mozambique.
WFP has been assisting 10,000 people in Mopeia and 5,000 in Morrumbala, as well as 11,500 people in the Chinde district, also in Zambezia Province. "This assistance will be provided through March 2008 as a means of post-flood recovery until the people are able to reap their current year harvest," he said.
"People tend to live and farm near the rivers in order to take advantage of the moisture and fertile soil, but this is obviously risky, and while it should be noted that big flooding events tend to occur every six to seven years (2000-2001 and 2007/2008), localised flooding occurs in these areas every year."
|People tend to live and farm near the rivers in order to take advantage of the moisture and fertile soil, but this is obviously risky, and while it should be noted that big flooding events tend to occur every six to seven years (2000-2001 and 2007/2008), localised flooding occurs in these areas every year|
Most people in the affected areas depend on fishing as their major source of income and food, but many now living in the resettlement areas have lost their fishing gear and now rely on food aid. Most resettlement residents have access to potable water, but untreated water from the river and lake are the main source of drinking water for those outside the resettlement areas.
Save the Children's McIvor pointed out the need to provide jobs or cash subsidies to help communities access food, which was available at affordable prices in local markets.
The report suggested the provision of potable water, and helping communities to obtain seeds and agricultural tools, and replace livestock lost in the floods to increase their resilience to shock.
United Nations agencies and their partner non-governmental organisations announced on 7 January that "the humanitarian community stands ready to support the government in the ongoing response [in central Mozambique]."
UN Resident Coordinator Ndolamb Ngokwey said, "Over the past few months we have been working closely with national authorities to put in place contingency plans to ensure that needs of those affected by the flooding are met expeditiously."
UN teams deployed to the affected regions are undertaking a rapid assessment of the impact of flooding on key activities like agriculture, water and sanitation, nutrition, education and child protection.