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Wednesday, 8 March, 2000, 14:05 GMT
Flood children separated from parents
Mozambican boy in camp
Many children do not know if their parents are alive or dead
Stelio Mabunda and his brother Mahelane have been waiting under a tree, hoping their mother will come for them. The boys, aged 11 and six last saw their mother nine days ago when rising floodwaters forced them to flee their home in Chokwe.


Girl with water vats
Survivors are gathered in makeshift camps
"Our mother told us to run away when the water came," Stelio said. "She was trying to gather our things together."

They managed to escape to higher ground but there was no sign of their mother. A truck took them the village of Chaqualane, 65km (40 miles) away, where they are being cared for, along with 56 other children, by six Roman Catholic nuns.

The boys do not know where their father is; only that he works in South Africa. Like hundreds of other Mozambican children they may never see their parents again.

Lost children

Aid workers say as many as half of the children arriving in camps were separated from their parents during a month of flooding in southern Mozambique. Aid workers from Save the Children counted up to 250 lost children in just two camps in the Save river area.



Many of the children have seen their parents and family members washed away.

Roy Trivedy, Save the Children
The charity is working with Mozambique's Ministry of Women and Social Welfare (Micas) to help re-unite families. But it is a long task. Smaller children, some of whom do not remember their name, are often too traumatised to answer questions.

"The scale of the problem is great. Many of the children have seen their parents and family members washed away," said charity worker Roy Trivedy.


Boy eating a meal
Aid workers are trying to reunite families
There are no clear figures as to how many children have been orphaned. Save the Children estimates 1,000 children are still separated from their families; Unicef put the number closer to 500.

Many families have been reunited as floodwaters slowly ebb away and survivors make their way to camps.

Reunited

Sister Alda Macualua, who looks after the children in Chaqualane's makeshift camp, said 62 children had found their parents in the last few days.

One woman, reunited with her two children Monday after more than a week apart, told of lifting one child into a tree and balancing the other on her head while she clung for two days to a tree trunk in chest-high water.

A helicopter rescued the children, but the mother refused help. She stayed in the tree for a week until the waters receded and walked to Chaqualane where she found her children.

Sister Macualua said: "The mother was crying and the children were crying. The little one was holding the mother tight - she did not want to leave her."

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