Flood situation "under control"

A fisherman is silhouetted against the rising sun as he prepares to go out fishing on the Zambezi River. Fishing and farming communities all along the banks of the Zambezi river have had to move their families inland to avoid flooding and have lost access
(David Gough/IRIN)

Rivers throughout central and northern Mozambique are swollen above flood alert level and thousands of people have been relocated to higher ground, but national disaster management authorities and aid agencies in Mozambique say "the situation is under control".

After weeks of torrential rain in Mozambique and its regional southern African neighbours, Zambia and Zimbabwe, the National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC) indicated that 130,000 people were living in risk zones and could be forced to move if water levels kept rising.

A Red Alert was declared on 9 March for the basins of the Zambezi, Pungue, Buzi and Licungo rivers, but the Representative of the UN Children's Agency (UNICEF), Leila Pakkala, who is responsible for coordination in the Humanitarian Country Team, said the government and aid partners had started moving people pre-emptively.

"Thirteen thousand people have already been moved to secure areas," she told IRIN. Although the rain was expected to diminish, they were still "closely monitoring the situation in affected areas to ensure needs are identified and immediately addressed".

The cholera season in central Mozambique is at its peak; given the large populations moving through cholera-affected areas to get to places of safety, Mozambique's Provincial Health Directorate has warned of possible outbreaks in the new accommodation centres.

Pakkala said cholera prevention and response activities - like the rehabilitation of water systems, water chlorination, and informing people that they should adopt hygienic habits - were already ongoing. "Supplies have been dispatched from the pre-positioned locations by the Red Cross and UN partners," she said.

Watching regional water management

The latest National Hydrological Bulletin, released on 10 March by the National Water Directorate, said water levels in the Zambezi, Africa's fourth largest river, would remain above alert level and keep rising, "possibly aggravating localized flooding".

In neighbouring Zimbabwe, water levels in the Kariba Dam – one of the largest on the Zambezi – have been rising and the Zambezi River Authority had to open one of its flood gates on 9 March.

Downstream in Mozambique, the Cahora Bassa Dam has also increased its outflow to 4,700 cubic meters per second, and will maintain this volume until 15 March.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned in its 10 March Southern Africa Floods Regional Update: "While the opening of one Kariba Dam floodgate is not a significant event in itself, any additional flow from the dam may force another increase in discharge from the Cahora Bassa [downstream], increasing the possibility of flooding in Mozambique."


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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