Floods in Mozambique

International Development written statement – made on 22nd February 2007.

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Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn The Secretary of State for International Development

Rising flood waters have forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in the Zambezi valley in Mozambique. In 2001 similar flooding led to the loss of hundreds of lives. This time prompt action by the Government of Mozambique, with support from the international community, has averted a major catastrophe. Much remains to be done, though, to protect the lives and well being of those affected and to assist them in returning to normal life when the flood waters recede. We are also very concerned about the possible consequences of the imminent impact in Mozambique of tropical cyclone Favio, bringing potentially hurricane force winds and heavy rain.

So far an estimated 121,000 people have been displaced, of whom 71,000 are in emergency camps and the rest in resettlement areas set up by the government after the 2001 floods. The vast majority of those affected have moved to higher ground, where relief work is underway, though there are still concerns about smaller groups of people in remoter areas. Although water levels upstream have been subsiding in recent days, flood waters remain high downstream and further rainfall is expected.

DFID has been among the first donors to respond and we are continuing to build up our support to the relief effort as the full extent of needs becomes apparent. Last week we provided Oxfam with £370,000 for the airlift and distribution of essential supplies. This week we have agreed to provide £500,000 in response to a £3.4 million appeal from the International Federation of the Red Cross, to provide shelter, household items, medical supplies, clean water and latrines for up to 100,000 people over the next six months. Our assistance follows a grant of £40,000 made several weeks ago to Save the Children for disaster preparedness work. We are also making arrangements with the Government of Mozambique's National Institute of Disaster Management and the World Food Programme to provide technical help to the coordination and logistics of the response. One of our humanitarian specialists arrived in Mozambique last week and is currently in the flood-affected areas, with back up support being provided by our office in Maputo and our humanitarian team in London.

Other donors are also responding, including the European Commission which has pledged €2 million, of which the UK's share is 340,000 Euros. UN relief agencies are fully involved. The major concern now is to ensure that adequate shelter, food, medical supplies, and water and sanitation services are provided to displaced people to prevent ill health and outbreaks of disease. We will be considering further support once we have a clear picture of the overall response and the resources available, including from the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund.

We are also closely monitoring floods reported elsewhere in the region, including along the banks of the Zambezi in Zambia, where we have emergency funds available should they be needed.