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Monday, 6 March, 2000, 15:58 GMT
Long road to recovery
Flood victims wading through water
Nearly one million people have been affected
As the waters subside in Mozambique following the worst floods in living memory, relief efforts are turning to feeding and sheltering the survivors.

Nearly one million people are destitute. They need clean drinking water, food, medical supplies and temporary shelter.

But all this has to be provided in the context of a shattered infrastructure - roads, railways and bridges have been destroyed and clinics swept away.

Alison Woodhead of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which is co-ordinating the UK appeal, says the top priority is providing clean water.

People rush to join a helicopter
Helicopters played a key role in saving people
''Although the waters are receding in the south, in some ways it's just the start of the problems because they leave behind dead bodies and filthy pools of standing water,'' she added.

''Ironically in a country that has been under water for weeks, dehydration is one of the biggest problems and possibly the biggest killer, particularly for the young and old.''

Aid workers fear the death toll could also soar as a result of water borne diseases such as malaria and cholera, which were both already endemic in Mozambique before the floods.

Relief agencies are distributing hygiene kits, including oral rehydration salts and antibiotics, and collapsible water tanks, which can be mounted on lorries and driven to affected areas.

Rescue

The UN says 10,000 people have been rescued from immediate danger and the search and rescue operation is now over.

However, pockets of people are still stranded on islands of high ground and in need of assistance.

Mozambique floods
950,000 people affected
350,000 affected in first flooding wave, 600,000 in second
10,000 people rescued from immediate danger
250,000 displaced people being assisted in 64 camps
The break-up of Cyclone Gloria off the coast is also bringing further heavy rains to the region and there are fears the waters could rise again and people will have to be re-rescued.

Another problem is that many survivors will not move into the relief camps because they have lost relatives and want to look for them.

Save the Children is trying to reunite families separated in the floods.

Chaos

With the sudden arrival of dozens of helicopters, lifeboats and overseas relief contingents, there have been reports of confusion on the ground over who is doing what.

The operation is being co-ordinated by the United Nations in conjunction with the Mozambique Government, which holds daily meetings with all the agencies involved.

Military units from South Africa, Malawi, Britain and France are also taking part in the relief work.

Different organisations have started taking responsibility for separate areas. Action Aid is operating around Maputo and Oxfam in the Save River Region.

Stranded flood victims
There are fears of more flooding
Almost all the agencies are involved in food distribution.

The World Food Programme has about 8,000 tonnes of food stockpiled in Mozambique, but is having problems distributing it because roads and railways have been wrecked by floods.

Much of it is being delivered using helicopters and boats.

Around 60 helicopters are now working in Mozambique or expected shortly, but the Red Cross say there are still not enough to do the job.

Planting

Aid workers are also talking to farmers to find out what seeds they need so that they can begin replanting as soon as the flooded land has been desalinated and cleansed of sewage and rotting carcasses.

The DEC's Alison Woodhead said the planting season ended in June, so they would have to move quickly.

mozambique flood victims
Dehydration is a major problem
''No one wants 20 million people dependent on food aid,'' she added. ''But it's too early to start planting yet, we're still saving people's lives.''

Officials estimate it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild Mozambique and have urged Western donors to write off the country's $8.3bn external debt, on which it pays up to $1.4m interest a week.

Until the floods, Mozambique was one of Africa's emerging success stories. It had seen 10% growth in recent years and last year was the first since its ruinous civil war that it had not needed to ask for food aid.

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See also:

03 Mar 00 |  Africa
Disasters: Why the world waits
28 Feb 00 |  Africa
The floods: A regional disaster
25 Feb 00 |  Africa
A sad journey back home
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