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The BBC's Rageh Omaar
"A key part of Britain's relief effort in Mozambique"
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The BBC's Mike Williams
"With no clean water, disease is rife"
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Tuesday, 7 March, 2000, 00:22 GMT
Disease stalks Mozambique
Aid worker removes corpse from streets of Chokwe
A corpse is removed from the streets of Chokwe
Rescue workers in Mozambique have been rushing emergency supplies to tens of thousands of flood victims, as forecasters predict more heavy rain.

Foreign troops and aid workers are fighting a race against time as the threat of hunger and disease grows after the country's worst flood on record.

In some parts of the country, the bodies of victims are lying unburied and people have only dirty water to drink.

Medical workers have noted an increase in cholera cases and skin infections. They believe their help could be needed for months to come.


Baby awaits treatment at medical centre
A woman and her sick baby at a field hospital
The World Health Organisation has warned that malaria has risen sharply after the flooding.

Its representative in Mozambique, Carlos Tiny told the BBC children and pregnant women were particularly vulnerable.

Aid effort on the move

A total of 50 helicopters, 12 aircraft and 100 boats have been criss-crossing the country delivering food, clean water and medicines to refugee camps and communities isolated by seas of mud.

Aid workers now say problems co-ordinating the relief effort have been eased by assigning the many countries providing aid to different parts of Mozambique.

The UN World Food Programme says 100 tonnes of food a day are needed to feed an estimated 250,000 people crowded into 64 makeshift camps, mostly in southern and central Mozambique.

Air drops

As waters in the swollen Limpopo and Save rivers receded on Sunday, relief efforts shifted from plucking survivors from danger to dispensing aid to hundreds of thousands of desperate people, many of whom could be reached only by air.


Help finally reached the marooned community of Magude, boosted by about 9,000 refugees, on Monday, three days after the last food ran out.

"Some of the children here had not had anything to eat for two or three days until these supplies arrived. It's very serious. We need food most of all," said schoolteacher Alberto Marcoa as helicopters delivered bags of rice and maize meal.

Relief supplies also reached up to 5,000 people in the coastal town of Nova Mambone, said Roy Trivedy, of the British charity Save the Children.


We need food most of all

Flood survivor
But an estimated 15,000 people in the Save River valley were still in urgent need of aid, and French, German and UN planes have been delivering relief supplies to the region.

Meanwhile, foreign donors have promised $78m to help rebuild Mozambique's shattered infrastructure, UN special envoy Ross Mountain told reporters on Monday.

President Joaquim Chissano had appealed for a minimum of $250m for reconstruction and for Mozambique's foreign debt to be written off.

More rain forecast

Although flood waters are subsiding in some parts of Mozambique, weather forecasters are predicting renewed heavy rain in the worst-hit areas of the country.

Helicopter
Helicopters are now concentrating their efforts on delivering aid
The South African Weather Bureau said a tropical cyclone had faded, but warned that "heavy rain exceeding 50mm (two inches) per 24 hours can be expected to develop overnight and especially tomorrow".

Mr Mountain said that many survivors were ignoring the pleas of aid workers and government officials, and returning to flood-battered areas, raising the possibility that they might have to be rescued again if the heavy rains resume.

The death toll - currently at 400 - is expected to soar into the thousands as water levels subside to reveal the bodies of those who drowned, and as cases of disease increase.

Madagascar

Fears are also growing that the storm-hit Indian Ocean island of Madagascar could suffer a similar fate to Mozambique.

Floods caused by two cyclones have forced 600,000 people from their homes, and left at least 50 dead, UN officials said.

Sergio Soro, Madagascar representative for the UN children's fund Unicef, said Madagascar "could become the next Mozambique".

The government only completed its initial assessment of the crisis on Monday and is expected to make an appeal for international assistance after presenting a report to parliament.

Meanwhile, 500,000 people have also been affected by the flooding in Zimbabwe, a UN humanitarian affairs spokesman said, adding that 25,000 of them were in an urgent situation.

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