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Mozambique floods worsen

BY SUSAN KIM | Baltimore, MD | March 2, 2001

"At least 150 residents were evacuated this week from Cleveland, Barstow, and Osborn, IL as waters from the ice-jammed Rock River flooded the three small towns."

Thousands of people are stranded on flooded lands in Mozambique and Malawi as flooding worsens.

The swollen Zambezi River continued to rise Friday as emergency crews struggled to evacuated people who are reachable only by boat or helicopter.

Hundreds of thousands of residents in both countries have been displaced by the floods. Some 60,000 people still need to be moved to dry ground.

In Mozambique, 52 people have died, more than 81,000 have been displaced, and some 400,000 have been affected in the provinces of Zambezia, Sofala, Manica, and Tete. In Malawi, 13 districts have been affected across the country. In the hardest-hit southern districts, some 200,000 people have been displaced and five are dead, according to reports from Action by Churches Together (ACT), a global alliance of church-based relief agencies.

In Mozambique, the Christian Council of Churches of Mozambique (CCM), an ACT member, is assisting flood survivors with food, blankets, and chlorine tablets to ensure clean drinking water. Other ACT members in the country, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and Presbyterian Church of Mozambique (IPM), are also responding. LWF has stocks of plastic sheeting, blankets, jerry cans tents, tinned goods, and health kits ready for distribution. LWF has also provided petrol and diesel to help transport relief items to Mutara, which is accessible only by air or river. IPM has committed 500 survival kits to Zambezia.

The LWF office in Tete reported that the emergency situation in the province of Tete continues to grow daily as the Zambezi River rises. Some 44,000 people are being affected in the Tete province alone.

In Malawi, ACT member Churches Action in Relief and Development provided tents to homeless families. The Evangelical Lutheran Development Programme (ELDP), working with LWF, is distributing clothes and blankets. ACT is releasing $25,000 in rapid response funds to ELDP and LWF.

The hardest-hit district is Nsanje, where 22,454 families are homeless and five people died.

The flooding has destroyed thousands of acres of crops that were nearly ready for harvest. Many have lost the food they would normally eat, plus surplus crops they would sell for cash -- rice, cassava, sweet potatoes, and pineapples.

A major concern is the spread of cholera. At least 19 people have died and 1,500 have been treated for cholera since the rains intensified, according to ACT.

Last year, floods in Mozambique killed 700 and cause widespread destruction.

In the wake of that flooding, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) appointed a disaster response coordinator who has received UMCOR training and continues to work closely with UMCOR staff. UMCOR's disaster response network in Mozambique is responding to the latest flooding by delivering food, tents, netting, and other relief items to affected areas.

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) has been delivering food staples since January, according to spokesperson Norma Sahlin. ADRA has development programs operating in the Maganja da Costa area.

ADRA Mozambique was established in 1987 in response to the humanitarian crisis resulting from protracted civil war and prolonged drought. Ongoing projects include cashew nut tree nurseries, clean water wells, and sanitation education.

The Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has released $165,000 toward a first phase of relief. Working with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, MCC will use the money to locally purchase seeds and tools, as well as emergency kits, according to spokesperson Larry Guengerich.

AmeriCares is also sending a shipment of relief items.

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