UN rolls out food aid to displaced Mozambicans

CAIA, Mozambique - The UN World Food Programme yesterday started handing out emergency food aid to about 6000 flood-hit Mozambicans, and said their needs could become more desperate.

CAIA, Mozambique - The UN World Food Programme yesterday started handing out emergency food aid to about 6000 flood-hit Mozambicans, and said their needs could become more desperate.

Programme officials said the flooding of the Zambezi River had compounded food problems in Mozambique, where thousands were already in need of aid.

Spokesman Jack Siamen said: "We will start the distribution from today ... some people are starving.

"Even if the waters go down, many people have lost crops and food will become a problem. We will have to extend our feeding programmes."

About 68000 people have been made homeless after floods swept away their homes and 280000 more might have to be evacuated this week, a disaster relief official said.

The head of the national relief agency, INGC, said the stream of people had put pressure on crowded make-shift refugee camps, already home to more than 30000 people.

INGC director, Paulo Zucula, said: "Food, diseases and shelter are major problems in the accommodation centres. Despite the devastation, the situation is under control and we cannot think of an emergency appeal. But we need money."

The floods, fuelled by rains from neighbouring Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi pouring into the overflowing Cahora Bassa Dam, have killed 29 people and damaged thousands of homes and schools, mainly in central Zambezia and Sofala provinces.

Officials said that though the rain appeared to be tapering off, the possibility that floodgates would be opened further upstream could mean more problems for residents of areas in the flood plain.

Boats and aircraft have been used to move people from around flooded areas near the Zambezi River, many with little more than the clothes on their backs.

Experts fear the crisis could surpass the floods of 2000 and 2001, which killed 700 people and displaced 500000. - Reuters

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