Major floods return to Mozambique
Heavy rainfall in neighbouring countries and poor dam management have led to devastating floods in Gaza Province in Mozambique, and in particular in Chokwe. 140,000 people have been displaced and scores killed.
Houses on the edge of flood plains in Xai Xai Town
“The first thing that alerted me to the seriousness of the situation was the sound of the helicopters,” said Santo Gotine of Caritas Mozambique.
Several major rivers from neighbouring countries flow through Mozambique to the sea. The coastal river basins are prone to water surges and floods. For many Mozambicans the memories of the terrible floods of 2000 are coming back. The disaster killed 800 people and displaced over a million.
“This time around people in Chokwe were stunned”, said Santo Gotine. “Nobody expected floods to hit on this scale. Normally there are warnings issued - up to a week before hand - but this time people had 24 hours to prepare. The warnings spoke of water levels rising by a metre. In fact, the water rose above two metres”.
Chaakalene is a temporary accommodation centre , located 30 km east of Chokwe. The site provides clean water and temporary sanctuary above the flooded areas . 70,000 thousands are currently sheltering there until flood waters subside.
“I see a lot of sadness around me,” said Fr Eugenio from the local Caritas diocese in Xai-Xai. Fr Eugenio travels daily between Chaakalene and the parish of Macia , where Caritas and CAFOD (Caritas England and Wales) are helping the flood victims.
Food, clean water, medical supplies, tents and mosquito nets are required. “Most people fled without being able to take anything with them. The children are hungry and cases of diarrhoea and malaria are now appearing,” said Father Eugenio.
“We have people sleeping under trees and on open ground. We urgently need to find shelter for them here in Chakkelene as they are unprotected . There are 70,000 displaced in Chakkalene alone and in the parish of Macia we have 9000 people . In both locations, there are many children who are vulnerable to waterborne diseases such as cholera, dysentery and malaria,” he said.
The government and aid agencies have been swift to respond to the crisis. However, as water recedes in the south, it is increasing in the north stretching capabilities to their limits. More rain is forecast in the coming days. This will impede efforts and make access difficult.
The greatest challenge will be in the coming weeks and months as they try to salvage something from their land. The majority of the people in the Gaza province practice subsistence farming focused on livestock breeding . “They have lost everything: their crops, their tools, their cattle, their homes.” said Fr Eugenio.
The psychological impact of the disaster is tremendous. “Most adults have already lost everything during the floods of 2000 and it took so many years to build their lives back and now they find themselves in the same situation all over again. It is very sad and distressing.”
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