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Relief efforts intensify as new storm approaches

BY SUSAN KIM | Baltimore, MD | March 6, 2000

Relief workers in Mozambique are

responding to tens of thousands of

people stranded without food or water,

while keeping a wary eye on a new

storm that is threatening the country.

Camps now house thousands of refugees, hundreds of

them children who have been separated from their parents.

Malaria cases are beginning to rise, and an estimated 18

cholera cases are being reported daily. Medical assistance

and supplies are urgently needed.

Weather forecasters are calling for more heavy rains that

will target communities already weakened by hunger and

disease.

The death toll, now more than 500, is expected to rise into

the thousands as bodies are found in the mud. More than

900,000 people have been affected by the floods, with at

least 300,000 left homeless. A third of the staple maize crop

has been destroyed and more than 40,000 drowned cattle

float in the water. The only road connecting the northern

and southern sections of the country is severely damaged.

Action by Churches Together (ACT) conducted a damage

assessment by helicopter and found entire neighborhoods

and thousands of huts were simply gone. Four ACT relief flights arrived in Mozambique over the weekend carrying

plastic sheeting, emergency food, water purification tablets, tents, blankets, small motorboats, kitchen sets, and

medicine.

ACT partner agencies and denominational groups trying to help survivors have reported that the best way for

individuals to help is to make a cash contribution to one of the many groups responding. "We are hearing the stories of

those rescued from treetops and rooftops and we know that too many people witnessed friends and family slipping

into the raging waters because they no longer had the strength to hold on," said Christian Reformed World Relief

Committee staff person Janet Janz.

CRWRC is working with local Reformed and Presbyterian churches to buy food in the region and provide emergency

assistance.

"In the coming weeks, and months, people will have to be resettled, houses rebuilt, and field planted," said Janz. "In the

weeks and months to come as the water subsides, and the media attention subsides, the recovery process will become

an agonizing struggle for the devastated Mozambicans -- a struggle to reclaim their land, replant their crops, rebuild

their homes, restart their businesses, renew their hope."

"For those rescued and delivered to dry land, the trauma continues. Having lost loved ones, their homes and all of their

belongings, their livelihoods, they face the prospect of depending on the charity of the international community for

their survival and recovery. Will the international humanitarian community provide enough help in time or will it be

another case of 'too little, too late?'"

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has airlifted two shipments of relief supplies, including

high-capacity water purification units. UMCOR also forwarded $80,000 to the United Methodist Church in Mozambique

to help buy medicine and other items and is preparing another shipment of supplies.

Students and staff from Africa University are also responding with cash and in-kind donations. All staff members at

United Methodist-related Africa University have pledged to donate a day's salary to aid disaster survivors, and the

student union is also making a cash contribution.

Recovery will take at least 10 years, estimated Carol Kreamer, director of the Mozambique Initiative of the two United

Methodist annual regional conferences in Missouri.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has provided $100,000 to be used for emergency food and shelter. PDA also

provided a Prayer for Deliverance for congregations to insert into church bulletins.

Adventist Development and Relief Agency delivered $25,000 in food aid. And Catholic Relief Services has sent an

assessment team to the region being the process of initiating a region-wide response.

The Mennonite Central Committee gave $32,000, and plans to increase aid for Mozambique to provide more food,

clothing, tarps, and possibly seeds and tools so people can replant their fields when the water subsides.

Baptist World Aid continues to provide relief funds as well. Baptist development worker Chuck Stephens said that the

post-emergency rehabilitation will be the greatest challenge. He says that while food aid, medicine, and other supplies

will be needed in the short- term, much more will be needed in the long-term when the water recedes and the floods

are no longer fresh news. "Seeds, farming tools, cement, roofing materials, wells, small livestock to kick-start husbandry

again, and the cattle for tillage -- to say nothing of the social infrastructure (bore holes, bridges, roads, dikes, clinics,

schools, you name it) will be by far the greater need," he said.

Both the American Friends Service Committee and Global Action are planning to work in partnership with local

non-governmental organizations.

Direct Relief International (DRI) is preparing its first shipment of aid. Also, four Portuguese-speaking physicians were

flown into Mozambique by DRI partner agency American Jewish World Service. DRI will be providing the doctors with

pharmaceuticals and other medical supplies. DRI reports that antibiotics used to treat or prevent cholera, dysentery, and

typhoid are likely to be among the most-needed items.

"We're already seeing an initial spike in cases of malaria and that will only get worse," agreed Bruce Wilkinson, senior

vice president for international programs for World Vision. Even before the floods, malaria was the number-one killer

in Mozambique.

World Vision is still using helicopters to rescue stranded survivors and is also distributing recovery kits which include

blankets, plastic sheeting, cooking pots, plastic buckets, knives, plates, soap, hoes, spades, and other tools. In addition,

World Vision is preparing "veg-packs" which include seeds to plant maize, peanuts, beans, pumpkin, onions, sugar cane,

and tomatoes.

"Mozambique will require massive relief efforts for months to come," added Wilkinson.

Aid being sent by U.S. and other governments. On March 1, President Clinton announced a commitment of $12.8

million for relief operations. The Mozambique government estimates the recovery will cost $250 million, and that

amount is constantly being revised upward.

Mozambique received the brunt of the flooding but Madagascar, Zimbabwe, and Bostwana also sustained heavy

damage. Flooding began in the region in early February with heavy rainfall across southern Africa and was then

exacerbated by Cyclone Eline which hit Feb. 22.


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