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Mozambique floods: Older people will not be forgotten

26 Feb 2013

People are desperate for help after the severe flooding.Torrential rain in the first two weeks of January swelled the Limpopo river levels drastically and caused the government to advise all to evacuate to higher ground. 

On the evening of 23 January, queues of cars, minibuses, trucks and tractors headed east towards Chiaquelane and Macia, loaded up with people and as much as they could carry, fleeing from the metre-high flood wave.

Thousands also fled Chokwe, a busy market town of around 55,000 people and home of HelpAge Affiliate, Vukoxa. Nobody dared go back and those who could not get out in time climbed on top of their houses or scrambled into trees to wait for rescue boats.

No food, water or shelter

By the next day in Chiaquelane, about 30km from Chokwe, the Disaster Management Institute and the Mozambican Red Cross had provided tents for shelter. In reality though, families had spread themselves throughout Chiaquelane; under trees, in bushes, in gardens, under vehicles and anywhere that might give shelter from the heavy rain that continued to fall.

Nobody had clean water, few had food or a roof over their heads and the search for missing children became a song painful for many families. A wave of looting in shops, warehouses and residences followed behind the wave of the river. 

As the water receded after a few days, some went to see what was left of their livelihoods and began the long job of cleaning up their houses. A layer of thick mud mixed with shards of glass from broken bottles, windows and crockery covered everything.

Little by little people have started returning to their homes, half expecting another wave of water, which fortunately has not come. People have started up their businesses again, while running backwards and forwards between the queues for food and water. 

We have lost everything but are still helping older people

The Government is also beginning to look at the future for Chokwe residents. They are giving out parcels of land for those who need them. This new area is called 3 February.

And for us in Vukoxa? With our office completely inundated in water up to 1.7metres high, we have lost our equipment and furniture, our files and materials. Now we have established our office under the cashew tree in Chiaquelane, where with support from HelpAge, we have organised our activists to begin working again.

We began by reaching out to older people in the camps and those who were left behind in Chokwe, registering them to find out how they have been affected. We are also working with the authorities and other humanitarian actors to prioritise older people and guarantee their rights and dignity.

To date we have managed to get some support for 115 households headed by older people in one neighbourhood of the city. We have distributed family kits, mosquito nets, blankets, buckets and now we are giving out a water purifying product to make sure that older people have safe drinking water.

Although this has only helped a small number of people, it translates to a very significant gesture by the donor, Childfund, by sending a clear message that older people will not be forgotten in this emergency.

Read more about how HelpAge supports older people in emergencies.

Find out how older people are ensuring they are included in emergency responses through our UNJUST campaign.

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Author profile

Michaque Ubisse
Country: Mozambique
Job title: Coordinator of Vukoxa, HelpAge partner

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.