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Friday, 25 February, 2000, 15:55 GMT
Aid effort gears up for Mozambique

Air workers load relief supplies onto a South African helicopter
Aid workers have been flying supplies by helicopter

The relief effort in Mozambique is being hampered by a lack of air transport and further flooding as fresh rains fill already swollen rivers across southern Africa.

Aid workers are struggling to help more than 300,000 people who have lost their homes and possessions in the floods.

Food supplies are running out and there are fears that water-borne diseases like cholera and malaria could spread.

Aerial view of the flooded village of Chinhanine Much of central and southern Mozambique is submerged
In the Limpopo River valley, many roads have been cut or completely swept away and the only way to get relief to some towns and villages is by helicopter.

Ian MacLeod, emergency co-ordinator in Mozambique for the United Nation's Children's Fund (UNICEF) says more helicopters are desperately needed to get supplies to people.

"We have three South African cargo helicopters which can carry three tonnes each and two smaller helicopters that are being used for rescues," he says.

"Discussions are under way to bring more helicopters ... They're very expensive to run. Each helicopter costs $2,000 an hour - but what price a person's life?"

There are fears of further chaos over the weekend when the Limpopo River is expected to once again burst its banks in the Gaza region.

Aid agencies are hoping to bring in further supplies early next week, particularly from overseas governments.

But in spite of the threat of worsening conditions Mr MacLeod says work on the ground is running smoothly for the time being.

"Co-ordination led by the government is going very well," he said. "We've been working closely with Médecins sans Frontieres and Oxfam as well as local non-governmental organisations on the ground.

"We've been sending out health supplies and high energy foods"

Appeals for aid

Homelessness and disease are the key problems facing people in the flood-hit areas.

The UN agencies have called for $13m to fund humanitarian operations, including health, sanitation and food security needs. On top of this the government has asked for more than $65m to help rebuild bridges, roads, sewerage systems and power supplies.

The government says 141 schools in the provinces of Maputo, Gaza, Inhambane and Maputo City have been destroyed, affecting more than 62,000 pupils.

"Health services in the affected areas are overwhelmed by the number of patients and are working beyond capacity. Drug stocks are running out, and there is a serious shortage of health workers," the government has said in an appeal.

It has also stressed that, beyond short-term relief aid, Mozambique will need millions of pounds and sustained assistance if its economy and infrastructure is to recover.
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See also:
24 Feb 00 |  Africa
Mozambique's economic hopes washed away
24 Feb 00 |  Africa
Mozambique: How disaster unfolded
23 Feb 00 |  Africa
Mozambique: Worst still to come
24 Feb 00 |  Africa
Appeal for Mozambique aid
22 Feb 00 |  Africa
Fears rise for homeless villagers
11 Feb 00 |  Africa
Africa's flood misery
21 Feb 00 |  Africa
Mozambique's floods: In pictures

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