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World Food Program Begins Relief Flights in Mozambique

The World Food Program has begun delivering relief supplies by air to communities affected by widespread flooding in Mozambique. VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our southern Africa bureau in Johannesburg, Mozambique has been worst hit by early heavy rains in the region.

The World Food Program says it has begun delivering food and other supplies such as tents, plastic sheets, and mosquito netting to areas in Mozambique cut off by flooding. About 76,000 people have been temporarily relocated, but many more remain stranded in areas that can no longer be reached by road.

WFP spokesperson Richard Lee tells VOA that humanitarian organizations have just completed an assessment to determine whether they need to launch a special appeal for Mozambique. He said it is necessary to start getting supplies to those already in need.

"And in the meantime we have got to start ramping up the humanitarian response, getting the food, shelter, medicines, water to the people who have been displaced by these current floods," he said. "As well as, and we must not forget this, tens of thousands of people who were moved to resettlement areas when the river flooded in early 2007."

In addition to those displaced this year, Lee says 190,000 people resettled onto higher ground last year also need assistance.

"So while they are not threatened by the actual water themselves, what we must not forget is that they have lost their crops, many of them have lost their crops for a second year," said Lee. "So it's likely that many of them will require assistance going through 2008 until the next main harvest next year."

The heavy rains have also affected Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. Lee says flooding in Malawi and Zimbabwe has not been widespread. He says the outlook is more serious in Zambia.

"Zambia looks considerably worse," he said. "The government has just declared a national disaster because of the flooding, and an assessment is underway there as well."

The rains came a month early and Lee says this is worrying.

"But once again what we must not forget is this is still very early," he said. " And if we are looking at at least another month, if not more of rains, the situation in all these countries could get much more serious."

In recent days there has been less rain in the areas that feed the Zambezi River, and water levels have declined slightly at the Cahora Bassa dam. Regional governments and relief organizations will be monitoring both until at least the end of March.