WFP has said a WFP-chartered helicopter had started rescue and food delivery missions in central Mozambique where the worst flooding in years has forced an estimated 85,000 people to flee their homes.
A WFP-chartered Mi-8 helicopter, flying from the town of Caia and coordinated by the government’s National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC), delivered 2.5 metric tons of WFP food on Wednesday (14 February) to an accommodation centre in Shamrrucha for people displaced by the floods.
The helicopter also began rescue missions yesterday, flying to Cocorico island, where 120 people were trapped by floodwaters. The Mi-8 is continuing food delivery missions from its Caia base today.
WFP and its partners began distributing food aid this week to 2,000 people in temporary accommodation centres in Caia district and 6,100 people in Mutarara district of Tete Province.
Some 10,000 litres of JetA1 fuel for the helicopter arrived today in Caia by road.
Heavy rains in central and northern Mozambique and neighbouring Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe over the last month flooded the Zambezi, Chire and Rivubue rivers in Tete, Manica, Sofala and Zambezia provinces.
The 800-kilometre-long Lower Zambezi River in Mozambique is above alert levels. Flood waters in Mutarara, Caia and Marromeu districts are nearing levels last seen during the catastrophic Mozambique floods of 2001.
A total of about 10,000 people affected by the Zambezi Valley floods have so far received WFP food.
The INGC said yesterday the situation was under control, but with nearly a month left in the rainy season and continued heavy downpours in neighbouring Zambia and Malawi, the situation could worsen in the weeks ahead.
The INGC reports that the floods have displaced 85,000 people, of whom 29,000 are sheltering in accommodation centres.
The Lower Zambezi is still being fed through tributaries by rains from neighbouring countries such as Zambia.
The Cahora Bassa Dam in Tete province yesterday reduced its discharge rate to 6,000 cubic metres per second compared with 8,400 cubic metres per second at the weekend.
Influx to the dam was 10,000 cubic metres per second last week but the discharge was then lowered both because of a reduced influx and to protect downstream dykes near communities.
If the government can control the dam outflows and rains in neighbouring countries decline, flooding on a scale similar to 2001 could be averted.
The Government of Mozambique has deployed troops to evacuate people from the worst-hit areas, but some people have refused to leave their homes, their land and their livestock.
The INGC also has a dozen boats that are ferrying people to higher ground in Caia district.
WFP and other in-country humanitarian agencies will soon launch an appeal to support the Mozambique government’s efforts to contain the crisis.
WFP’s portion of the appeal is expected to include food aid, air operations to participate in the rescue and delivery of relief supplies, and telecommunications to facilitate government coordination of the humanitarian response.
The INGC estimates that 285,000 people in Mozambique may need food and other assistance for the next few months in a worst-case scenario.
An estimated 40,000 hectares of crops have been lost in Mozambique under the floods. Crops are currently in their peak growing and development period ahead of the April/May harvest.
So far this year, flooding has also hit Angola, Madagascar, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. WFP has responded across the region, but faces a critical shortfall in funding for all its operations in southern Africa, requiring US$105 million through to the end of 2007.