Mozambique floods under control for now, but risk of further devastation still real, alerts Oxfam International

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Flooding in Mozambique may likely worsen in the weeks to come as more rain and cyclones are forecast, though the government has done an excellent job in providing relief so far, says international aid agency Oxfam.

Oxfam says the government has coordinated well with the National Institute of Disaster Management (INGC) in helping to evacuate more than 10,000 families in the central provinces of Tete, Sofala and Zambezia.

Around 72,000 people have so far been affected by the floods. At least 22,000 houses were submerged and an estimated 92,145 acres of crop land are affected by the floods. By far the worst affected area is Mutarara district in Tete province, where the INGC says that some 29,000 people were forced to flee their homes.

“The INGC’s search and rescue operations have been successful thus far,” said Michael Tizora, humanitarian coordinator of Oxfam International in Mozambique. “Most affected people have now been moved to resettlement sites. But with further rains forecasted throughout February many more people could still be at risk.”

For the second time in less than a year, tens of thousands of people have seen their crops destroyed. Oxfam is concerned about the long-term fate of these poor farmers.

“Donors need to be generous in the long-term, as well as with initial funding for the emergency response. People were only just beginning to re-build the little they had after the 2007 floods. They now have to start again,” Tizora said.

The flooding so far experienced in the Zambezi valley has exceeded last year's levels and some people fear it may well be worse than the 2000 and 2001 floods. However on Monday (Jan 14) the Cahora Bassa dam reduced its discharge from 6,600 to 5,500 cubic meters a second.

Oxfam is working in collaboration with the INGC and other local actors. Oxfam’s priority is to ensure that affected men and especially women and children have access to clean water and sanitation facilities in resettlement areas to avoid the risk of the spread of diseases such as cholera and diarrhea. Oxfam is currently gearing up to assist in the districts of Mutatara, Marromeu, Machanga, Govuro, and Tambara.

As part of its post-emergency program, Oxfam International is working in the resettlements centers from populations affected by 2007’s floods in Marromeu district to supply of safe water, adequate sanitation and public hygiene promotion. Oxfam is attending about 7,000 people in Chupanga, Amambos and Chiburiburi resettlement centers. Since early January 2008 another 2,500 people have sought shelter in these camps in face of the new floods.

The heavy rains and increased river levels have come earlier than usual. With several weeks of the traditional rainy season still to come, and more rain forecast for the Zambezi valley there is a risk of increased flooding. Oxfam is monitoring the situation and if flooding escalates is committed to respond. Rains have also displaced families in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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