22 March 2007

Mozambique: Food Shortage Looms for Disaster Victims

Maputo — About 350,000 people, affected by flooding in the Zambezi valley in central Mozambique, and by Cyclone Favio, that hit the southern province of Inhambane in late February, may face a shortage of food in the near future.

According to a report in Thursday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias", the Mozambican government's relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), is running out of food in its warehouses.

The government estimates that about 80 tonnes of maize flour a day are needed to feed the victims of the two disasters, but not enough funds have been guaranteed for this operation.

INGC director Paulo Zucula, who launched this alert on Wednesday, during a meeting with some of the flood victims in an accommodation centre in Zambezia province, said that the most viable alternative to avoid a crisis would be the immediate introduction of collective kitchens.

"The food that we have been distributing is running out", warned Zucula. "We are feeding about 347,000 people in the central and southern regions of the country. What I am saying is that the government has no more food, and within 15 days we, the INGC, will be leaving. When one sets up a collective kitchen, one uses less food and everyone eats. We are in an emergency situation".

He also warned the community leaders and the secretaries of the Zambezi Valley accommodation centres about the imminent food shortage, noting that it could be minimised by INGC and its partners in the resettlement phase through the distribution of basic kits for each family for the first three months, including food, seeds and agricultural tools.

"Right now we are in a phase of suffering, and it is necessary to explain to people that this is a problem and that the solution is the collective kitchen", he said.

Zucula urged the flood victims to organize themselves and cook their food in groups. "This is a proposal that makes sense", he said. "We know that there are cultural aspects that must be preserved, but now we are in an emergency situation, because the food we are distributing does not meet the standards fixed by the World Food Programme".

Zucula was reacting to complaints by the victims about the shortage of food. which had forced them to look for alternatives, including fishing, and eating unripe bananas and paw-paws. This died is said to have caused malnutrition particularly among children.

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