Switzerland steps up relief efforts in Mozambique

An official from the Swiss development agency has just returned from a fact-finding mission to flood-stricken Mozambique. He said the situation was under control for the moment, but warned that more rain could unleash another humanitarian catastrophe.

This content was published on March 10, 2000 - 17:39

An official from the Swiss development agency has just returned from a fact-finding mission to flood-stricken Mozambique. He said the situation was under control for the moment, but warned that further rains could unleash another humanitarian catastrophe.

Returning from Mozambique, Jean-Phillipe Jutzi of the Swiss Development Agency said the biggest immediate problem is the distribution of drinkable water and food.

"International help seems to have provided the food, but the problem is to distribute it because the main roads are cut by the floodwaters. Most of the aid has to be brought in by air or boat and that takes time."

In recent days, the relief effort has been hampered by further heavy rains. For the moment, said Jutzi, people have enough drinking water, but he warned that the threat from malaria and cholera will worsen as water levels start to fall.

So far more than a million people have been affected by the floods, and around a quarter of a million have been made homeless. The floods stretch over an area of 56,000 square kilometres, which is larger than Switzerland.

Aid workers say the death toll could run into thousands.

The key to preventing further deaths will be the provision of clean water. For this reason, Switzerland, Germany and Austria have launched a programme to install water purification systems.

It's expected that the programme will cover the needs of up to 50,000 people.

Switzerland is in charge of coordinating the project, while 180 volunteers from Germany and Austria will put the systems in place.

Another problem confronting Mozambique is a legacy of the country's 16-year civil war, which ended in 1992. It's feared that thousands of landmines may have been dislodged by the floodwaters.

The Swiss Development Agency has donated SFr 120,000 to the charity Handicap International so that the local population can be alerted to the danger.

In the mid- to long-term Switzerland will concentrate on rebuilding Mozambique's health care infrastructure and the water distribution network.

Four extra Swiss aid workers have been sent to Mozambique to complement the permanent staff of five, and SFr 10 million has been donated in addition to normal grants.

"This catastrophe is a real setback for Mozambique," says Martin Fässler, the Development Agency's desk officer for the region. "The country was doing really well and had a good economic performance. I think it will take Mozambique ten years to catch up."

swissinfo and agencies

This article was automatically imported from our old content management system. If you see any display errors, please let us know: community-feedback@swissinfo.ch

Share this story