Johannesburg — Around 80,000 children in the southern African country of Mozambique have now been displaced by flooding after Friday's cyclone added to the misery of almost a month of floods that destroyed the homes of at least 160,000 people, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said today, adding that the next week will be critical in avoiding outbreaks of disease.
Persistent heavy rains across southern Africa have wreaked havoc for hundreds of thousands of people in the region over the past month but Cyclone Favio last week, which killed at least two children in Mozambique, also severely damaged the central hospital at Vilanculos, as well as an estimated 220 classrooms.
"It is rare for a country to be hit by two massive and simultaneous emergencies within such a short period of time," said the Head of UNICEF in Mozambique, Leila Pakkala. "Mozambique responded quickly to the flooding, but there is no quick fix, and all our problems around water and sanitation, shelter, health, and education are now exacerbated by this severe cyclone."
The next week is "absolutely critical" for children who have lost homes, schools and are in danger of contracting diseases. "The response has been express and effective, but it must be stressed that this can only continue while resources and actions on the ground are maintained."
Current priorities for the Government, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are to ensure water facilities are clean and serviceable, temporary health structures are functioning, children are back in school, and drugs and health equipment are delivered to all affected areas.
UNICEF has already spent $3 million on helping the flood and cyclone victims, in particular by responding to the growing needs of populations now sheltered in camps, with such assistance as 500 tarpaulin sheets to build shelters, 10,000 cans and buckets for fresh water and other emergency supplies.
UNICEF is the lead partner for nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene and is co-leader with Save the Children in education and protection. It also works in health, which is led by the UN World Health Organization (WHO).