UN food agency launches appeal for Mozambique relief funds

Former Mozambican President, Joaquim Chissano, has asked the world to continue to give assistance to his country. Courtesy #DStv403

PARIS - The UN Food and Agricultural Organization launched an appeal for $19-million in short-term aid for farmers, fishers and other food producers in cyclone-hit Mozambique, one of the world's poorest countries.

The three groups in three Southern African countries hit by Tropical Cyclone Idai -- Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe -- "are under severe threat," an FAO statement said.

As flood waters recede, "keeping animals alive, rehabilitating damaged land and rebooting food production will be critical," it added, given that 80 percent of the population in Mozambique depends on agriculture.

READ: SA government pledges R60m for Idai relief

The cyclone devastated the provinces of Manica and Sofala, which normally account for one-quarter of the nation's cereal production.

The FAO estimates that $19-million would provide three months' support for local populations.

Before Cyclone Idai hit, 1.8 million people already lacked access to secure food supplies, the statement said.

"We will procure and distribute seeds as a matter of urgency so that farmers can plant for the secondary agricultural season, which is starting now, in April," it quoted local representative Olman Serrano as saying.

READ: Mozambique to start cholera vaccinations next week

The FAO estimates that more than 600,000 people were affected by the cyclone, which killed around 450 people and triggered waves of cholera and diarrhoea.

The World Food Programme said satellite images showed the creation of an inland sea that measures 125 kilometres long and 25 kilometres wide, larger than the European nation of Luxembourg. 

Meanwhile, former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano asked the world to continue to give assistance to his country.

Mozambique's Disaster Management says the death toll has now risen to 648.

Authorities have called off rescue operations for victims as the focus now turns to contain the inevitable outbreak of disease.