March 2, 2007

Country hit by a cycle of drought, flooding and cyclones

A crop and weather-monitoring group says there is a possibility of more rains and flooding in Mozambique in the coming weeks. "We are only at the beginning of March, while the rainy season lasts till the end of the month," said Antonio Mavie, a food security specialist and meteorologist with the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS-NET). "The floods in 2001 only peaked in mid-March." Flooding along the Limpopo, Save and Zambezi river valleys in 2000 and 2001 was the worst to hit Mozambique in decades: in 2000, half a million people were made homeless and 700 lost their lives.
Mozambique has been hit by a cycle of drought, flooding and cyclones in the past few months: Cyclone Favio devastated the districts of Vilanculos, Inhassorot, Govuro and Masinga, in the south of the country, leaving more than 130,000 people homeless, 73,000 of them in the town of Vilanculos, according to the International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). There was severe flooding in the provinces of Sofala, Tete, Manica and Zambezia after torrential rains began in January, which caused several rivers, including the Zambezi, to burst their banks, affecting more than 320,000 people, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
"We will have a clearer picture of the impact on the 2006/07 food production in mid-March", said Peter Vandor, FAO's resident representative in Mozambique. Small-scale farmers were trying to recover what was left of their maize harvest still protruding above the floodwater, with the help of boats. The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) estimated that 40,000 hectares of crops in their peak growing and development period ahead of the April/May harvest were lost beneath the water.
In contrast, FEWS-NET's Mavie said, a prolonged dry spell in the southern and central provinces at the beginning of the planting season in 2006 had resulted in widespread crop failure and repeated planting. "The 2006/07 crop was already a write-off in those areas, and farmers were already asking for seeds for re-planting. In fact, the rains have brought some much-needed moisture, which will help the farmers." Vandor said the FAO had begun distributing cash vouchers to 70,000 small-scale farmers to purchase agricultural inputs like seeds and fertiliser. The government's National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC) said it had enough food aid to assist those who had been affected. "Our problem is logistics," Paulo Zucula, head of the disaster agency, told IRIN. "We need more boats and helicopters to carry five to eight metric tonnes of food and non-food items every day ... We are able to access the affected, but it is taking us time to get there."
Aid agencies have warned of a possible outbreak of diarrhoea, cholera and other waterborne diseases. (IRIN)

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