Mozambicans displaced by floods need durable solutions says UN expert

1 July 2008An independent United Nations human rights expert has called for greater efforts to provide those displaced by floods in Mozambique with adequate housing and other services so they can start to rebuild their lives. The Southern African nation is affected by recurrent floods, cyclones and droughts. At least eight people were killed as a result of Cyclone Jokwe, which struck the Mozambican coast on 8 March with winds of up to 200 kilometres per hour, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless.“Relocation of those living in disaster-prone areas to safe areas can increase the security of populations, but should only be resorted to, if there are no other and less intrusive solutions and if it is sustainable,” Walter Kaelin, the Secretary-General’s Representative on the human rights of internally displaced persons, said following his visit to the country. “This is crucial for the protection of the human rights of the persons displaced by the disasters,” he added. Mr. Kaelin called on the Government and the international community to focus on measures to provide the displaced with adequate housing and services, as well as to ensure that the long-term needs of women and children and the most vulnerable among the displaced, such as persons with disabilities and HIV/AIDS, are addressed.He was impressed by the efforts of the Government and welcomed the activities undertaken to reduce the risk of disaster and carry out an effective emergency response. “The institutional set-up and the decentralized structure of the governmental actors involved in disaster preparedness, response and recovery is commendable and could serve as a model for other countries,” he stated. At the same time, the Representative noted several challenges in the recovery phase, including a lack of funding. “Relocation to safe areas is both critical and difficult. It is a dilemma between the Government’s duty to protect the life of those displaced and their right to move freely and chose their place of living,” he noted.Mr. Kaelin recommended that the Government increase its consultation with the displaced so as to enhance their participation on the decisions that directly affect them. He also stressed the need to provide appropriate and culturally-acceptable solutions to ensure that affected populations can enjoy their rights to adequate housing, health and education, in particular in areas of relocation. In addition, access to livelihoods must be guaranteed so that people can sustain their new lives and avoid returning to live in high-risk areas. Mr. Kaelin, who reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, met during his visit with a number of Government officials, non-governmental and international organizations, traditional leaders and displaced persons. Most recently he has travelled to Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Honduras, Kenya and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and will be visiting Madagascar next week.