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Floods wreak havoc in parts of southern Africa, thousands need help

Floods across southern Africa are wreaking havoc for tens of thousands of people caught by rising water that has washed away crops, homes and claimed the lives of dozens of people, WFP has said.

With the situation likely to worsen in the coming days, we are going to need the full support of the international community
Amir Abdulla, WFP Regional Director for Southern Africa
The worst flooding is in the central region of Mozambique. Persistent heavy rains in central and northern Mozambique and neighbouring Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe over the last three weeks have flooded the Zambezi, Chire and Rivubue rivers in Tete, Manica, Sofala and Zambezia provinces.

The Lower Zambezi River in Mozambique, which is 800 kilometres long, has been above alert levels for nearly a week.

Mozambique getting worse

“WFP is responding to the localised flooding across southern Africa but we are particularly concerned about the worsening situation in Mozambique which has yet to hit peak levels and is still being fed by rains in neighbouring countries,” said Amir Abdulla, WFP Regional Director for Southern Africa.

“We have been using pre-positioned stocks to respond to the floods across the region but the severity of flooding in Mozambique will require urgent additional funding,” he added.

The Government of Mozambique has deployed the military to help evacuate people from the worst-affected areas and WFP has already begun distributing 300 metric tons of pre-positioned emergency food rations to 2,000 people gathered in centres in Mutara, one of the worst-affected areas.

Homes and schools destroyed

Since early December, floods in Mozambique have destroyed more than 4,600 homes, 100 schools and four health centres and displaced 46,500 people, killing 29. Several primary and dozens of secondary roads are underwater, isolating many communities including the district capitals of Zumbu and Mutarara in Tete province.

In addition, heavy rains in Zambia during the whole of January filled the Cahora Bassa Dam in Mozambique’s Tete Province above capacity levels.

Influx to the dam has been a consistent 10,000 cubic metres per second for the last week, while discharge has been steadily increasing and is expected to hit 8,400 cubic metres per second later today.

Flooding to worsen

The outflow is likely to worsen flooding in the Zambezi River basin to levels not seen since the catastrophic floods in Mozambique of 2000 and 2001.

WFP plans to launch an appeal to the international community early next week to support the Mozambique government’s efforts to contain the crisis.

The appeal is expected to include food aid, air operations to participate in the rescue and delivery of relief supplies, and telecommunications to facilitate the government’s coordination of the humanitarian response.

Fleeing rising waters

It is estimated that some 285,000 people in Mozambique may need food assistance for the next few months as many have had to flee the rising flood waters, leaving behind their meagre possessions and food stocks.

While it is too early to predict the impact on agricultural production across the region, crops are currently in their peak growing and development period ahead of the April/May harvest. Early estimates are that 15,000 hectares of crops have been lost in Mozambique.

So far this year, flooding has also affected Angola, Madagascar, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. WFP has rolled out responses across the region, but the full effect of flooding in Mozambique is likely to be delayed due to it being the main repository for water from several countries.

Critical funding shortfall

WFP already faces a critical shortfall in funding for all its operations in southern Africa, requiring US$105 million through to the end of this year.

“Our response in the region is hampered by a critical funding shortage and the need is now most acute in Mozambique,” Abdulla said.

“With the situation likely to worsen in the coming days, we are going to need the full support of the international community.”