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The BBC's Greg Barrow in Maputo
"The biggest challenge to aid agencies is preventing people from returning to their villages too soon."
 real 28k

Wednesday, 15 March, 2000, 20:05 GMT
Madagascar floods worse than thought
woman and rice
A woman cleans rice at her flooded home in Sambava, Madagascar
The estimated number of people needing urgent help in the wake of the Madagascar cyclone has doubled to 40,000.

The United Nations says it is now moving the relief operation from an acute emergency phase to rebuilding and rehabilitation.

There has also been a sharp rise in the number of deaths caused by cholera which appears to confirm fears that the cyclone and tropical storms have helped to fuel an epidemic.

cholera victim
A 30-year-old cholera victim is placed in a coffin in Madagascar
A French military plane is planning food drops to help tens of thousands of people stranded on the east coast.

A C160 aircraft, which can carry seven tons of food, is due to fly to the coast on Thursday and drop food by parachute over devastated areas.

The UN's World Food Programme has flown 25 tons of food to the north-east of the country, but rainy weather and a shortage of fuel at the airport in the town of Sambava has hindered relief efforts.

Cholera epidemic

It is now four weeks since Cyclone Eline hit but still there is uncertainty about the numbers and the plight of populations in inaccessible parts of the worst affected areas.

When people have been reached their consistent concern is food.

And the latest figures on the long-running cholera epidemic show the disease claimed 384 victims in February.

The toll represents a 39% increase and brings the total number of deaths to more than 1,300.

Mozambique rains

Meanwhile in Mozambique, two days of heavy rain have disrupted the distribution of food to flooded communities.

Mozambique
Survivors are threatened by disease and malnutrition
The main road from the port of Beira to the small town of Save has again been cut.

Helicopters were called in on Tuesday to rescue 30 people and sacks of food from vehicles trapped on the road by flood water.

A spokesman for the WFP said there was enough food in the area to meet the needs of the population, but conditions were making it difficult to reach them.

Hunger threatens

Further south, in Gaza, roads have been reopened and lorries have been delivering large amounts of food.

But aid workers are finding it difficult to persuade people not to return to their villages until living conditions have been restored.

The WFP says people are anxious to return to their homes to plant their seeds, which must be in the ground before April if they are to make the next harvest in September.

Disease and hunger are threatening many survivors now and thousands of people have contracted malaria in the crowded refugee camps from the swarms of mosquitoes breeding in the stagnant floodwaters.
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See also:

15 Mar 00 | Africa
Rain slows relief effort
08 Mar 00 | Africa
Mozambique's devastated economy
01 Mar 00 | Africa
Mozambique: How you can help
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