Maputo — About 30,000 people displaced by floods in the southern Mozambican province of Gaza, have now returned to their home areas, which has allowed four of the temporary accommodation centres in the province to be closed.
Rita Almeida, spokesperson for the Disaster Management Technical Council (CTGC), cited in Tuesday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, said that the centres were closed after the Gaza provincial government had studied the areas where the displaced people normally and concluded it was safe for them to return.
The centres closed were those at Pafuri, in Chicualacuala district, near the point where the Mozambican, South African and Zimbabwean borders all meet, Aerodromo in Chibuto district, and Manjangue and Chilembene, in Chokwe, the district worst hit by the flooding on the Limpopo river.
“The philosophy underlying post-flood reconstruction is that people should settle in areas regarded as safe, so that episodes such as those of January do not recur”, said Almeida.
At the height of the floods crisis in Gaza, 140,000 displaced people were living in 19 accommodation centres. 104,000 were in Chihaquelane, in Chokwe, by far the largest centre, and which is still open.
Some of the displaced cannot return to their zones of origin since these are considered unsafe. They are being resettled on higher ground in areas regarded as safe. So far, 3,778 plots of land have been demarcated for flood victims throughout the country. 1,770 have been allocated to households, and 762 have now been occupied.
One of the obstacles to resettlement is the need to clear land, since many of the plots are in areas covered by bush which has to be removed. “Everything is being done to speed up resettlement, because the accommodation centres have to close as quickly as possible”, said Almeida. “But we cannot close them down without giving people alternatives, since they cannot return to areas which are unsafe”.
The distribution of land in resettlement areas goes hand in hand with food aid.
Since the flood crisis began in January, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has been providing assistance to 214,000 people in Gaza. That is now being scaled down – but even so, WFP expects to be providing food for 158,000 people in Gaza for the next six months.
As for the health situation in the wake of the Limpopo floods, the European NGO Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF – Doctors without Borders) warns of a likely deterioration.
MSF emergency coordinator Maria Celeste Edwards says there appears to have been an increase in malaria cases, but added “the high numbers may partly be related to the intense surveillance”.
A press release from MSF noted that its teams in Gaza have seen an increase in the number of seriously ill people who need to be hospitalised. Since MSF began its operations in Gaza on 30 January, it has carried out more than 10,000 consultations in Chokwe.
About a third of these were in connection with HIV and AIDS. Over 3,300 of those seen needed counselling or the life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs.
The Chokwe rural hospital should re-open in the near future, but MSF warned that a great deal of work was still needed to restore water supply and sanitation to normal in Chokwe town, which was completely inundated in January.
Meanwhile, the Council of Ministers (Cabinet) on Monday offered a day’s wages to support the flood victims. The amount was 208,447 meticais (about 7,000 US dollars).
Prime Minister Alberto Vaquina delivered this sum to the country’s relief agency, the National Disaster Management Institute (INGC), noting that this was just one of many acts of solidarity shown by Mozambicans to their fellow citizens who have lost everything due to the floods.
“We are pleased to note that the entire country has mobilized around this great cause”, said Vaquina. “So the Council of Ministers, which is also part of society, has decided to make its contribution”.
“Acts of solidarity strengthen the idea that Mozambique is a united country, and so when one part of our people suffers, we all suffer with them”, he added.