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The BBC's Ben Brown in Mozambique
"As the flood waters are subsiding, the death toll is rising"
 real 28k

The BBC's David Shukman
"There has never been so much aid for Mozambique but much more is needed"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 7 March, 2000, 18:26 GMT
Mozambicans still go hungry
Spanish helicopters
Spanish soldiers join the aid effort at Maputo airport
A UN food agency says the multi-national relief operation for flood victims in Mozambique is proving effective - but more food is needed.

After touring the affected areas, the deputy director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Mr Namanga Ngongi said that nearly half a million people will need emergency food for at least another six months.

People walking by water
Aid workers are warning people not to return home too soon
Aid efforts in Mozambique have been boosted by the arrival of US troops, but with more rain forecast there are fears that the death toll will rise sharply in coming days.

"We could have all reacted much faster," Mr Ngongi said. "We expect to be able to move more food as soon as we have a better infrastructure."

But he said that the supply of food was still inadequate. More than half of the 650,000 needing help was still not getting it or not getting enough.

Weather threat

Heavy falls of rain are expected overnight in the south of the country, with 40mm (1.5 inches) predicted before dawn on Wednesday.

Mozambique map
"The weather is still a problem, we still have to keep a full alert," said Mozambican Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao.

Aid workers are racing to prevent malnutrition, delivering 100 tonnes of aid a day - including rice and high-protein biscuits - to 250,000 displaced people in 72 camps.

"This has to be done every single day, if not we will definitely have reports of insufficient food in transit camps," the WFP's Georgia Shaver said.

Lack of fresh drinking water is causing concern. Many people are having to drink from stagnant pools and swamps left by the flooding - which are littered with corpses and which carry a risk of disease, particularly malaria and cholera.



It seems the world has no conscience when it comes to human life

Former Mozambican First Lady Graca Machel
The official death toll is 400, but the figure is considered to be much higher.

Some 950,000 out of a total population of 19 million have been affected by the floods, according to revised figures released by the Mozambican National Disaster Centre.

Rebuilding

Up to 50 helicopters and 100 boats are taking part in the rescue operation, as aid workers urge people not to return to their homes yet for fear of fresh flooding.

WFP workers are labouring to rebuild a washed-out road connecting Maputo to the country's biggest refugee camp near Chokwe where up to 50,000 flood victims are being supplied only by helicopter.

US force

The arrival of the advanced party of an American task force should extend the scope and reach of the aid operation.

The American force will be based further north, at Beira, with six large helicopters and six C-130 transport planes.

The location will enable them to bring vital relief to the Save River valley in the centre of the flood-stricken country.

The Americans are bringing infrared cameras to scan areas devastated by floods and spot survivors.


Broken bridge near Xai-Xai
No way over: Bridges across the Limpopo river have been destroyed
The equipment records terrain on video-tape which will allow aid workers to find survivors or assess damage to roads and railways.

Flooding has also disrupted efforts to clear the estimated two million land mines still left from the country's 17-year civil war.

Flood waters have washed away landmarks, complicating mapping projects that had located land mines.

US criticised

US Air Force Major-General Joseph Wehrle, the commander of the American contingent, rejected criticism that the US response had been slow, citing the need to co-ordinate the logistics of the operation.

"That's as quickly as we could react," he said.


 Major-General Joseph Wehrle
Major-General Joseph Wehrle denied criticism that the US had been too slow
However maintenance problems have delayed the arrival of the six US helicopters until Wednesday.

Foreign donors have so far promised $103m to help rebuild the country.

President Joaquim Chissano has asked the West to write off his nation's existing $8.3bn external debt and provide $250m of aid.

US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers announced on Tuesday that the US was writing off Mozambique's remaining debt, which he said amounted to less than $2m.

Forgiving the debt "is a good investment for the United States," Mr Summers said.

But Mozambique's former first lady, Graca Machel, has condemned the speed of response from Western countries.

"It seems the world has no conscience when it comes to human life," she said.

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