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Mozambique faces health threat

BY DANIEL R. GANGLER | Baltimore, MD | March 20, 2000

Mozambique is still reeling from last month's fatal floods. Villagers continue to stream from aid camps back to their

home villages, only to discover they have nothing left.

In what has become an uncommonly long rescue phase, various countries continue to send in helicopters to save

stranded survivors. At the same time, faith-based agencies are trying to offer ongoing relief while also developing

long-term recovery plans. Floods have killed at least 492 people, left 330,000 homeless, and caused an estimated $250

million in damages to roads, bridges, railways, and buildings. Nearly one million residents have been directly affected.

Abby Spring, World Food Program (WFP) spokeswoman, said a new global appeal is being issued in order to insure the continued

presence of helicopters for rescue missions. Flooded roads do not allow supply trucks to reach rural villages. Relief efforts are also being

hampered in displacement camps by increased outbreaks of water-borne diseases. The next onslaught is expected from cholera.

According to Carlos Tiny, a World Health Organization representative in Maputo, "Cholera and malaria remain our biggest health threats.

We are under a tremendous amount of pressure here to keep ahead of the problem."

Last Saturday, 81 new cases of cholera were reported in Maputo. Officials fear an escalation in diseases as people move from camps to their

homes. To assist in this fight against cholera, Doctors Without Borders has sent medical teams, relief supplies, water tanks, rescue boats,

and logistical kits to several sites in the Maputo, Gaza, and Ihambane provinces. The volunteer doctors are reinforcing the capacity of the

Ministry of Health to prevent and control possible cholera epidemics.

The risk of epidemics will increase even more as soon as the water levels begin to fall. Doctors Without Borders has already installed four

cholera treatment centers in Maputo and Matola, where the first cases were confirmed. The African Development Bank announced last

Friday that it was giving a total of $1.5 million to Mozambique, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe to provide health equipment and drugs

needed. Each country will receive $500,000 for the treatment of cholera and malaria.

International Aid, a Michigan-based Christian relief, development, and training agency, sent two major shipments of relief supplies to

Mozambique. The items included water purification tablets, hygiene kits, medicines, blankets, baby goods, and oral re-hydration salts. The

oral re-hydration salts will help cholera-stricken residents replace body fluids.

Also, International Aid coordinated an airlift of supplies from South Africa to Mozambique. The relief items included vitamins, infant

nutritional supplements, and vaccines for cholera. Sonny Enriquez, International Aid disaster relief coordinator in Maputo, said that it is

critical for the waters to recede so people can plant their crops. If the people can't plant their seeds, Mozambique could face a major food

crisis down the road.

Hundreds of relief organizations are seeking funds to buy supplies, medicines, and foods for flood relief. The World Council of Churches

based in Geneva, Switzerland, also sent a letter to member churches across the world appealing for debt forgiveness for Mozambique and

other nations suffering from devastation from disasters.

Church World Service (CWS) issued an appeal to provide Mozambique with more blankets and tarps for 24,000 individuals as they return

to washed-out homes. CWS plans also include rural resettlement kits for 5,200 returning families. Kits include blankets, plastic sheeting,

mosquito nets, health kits, landmine awareness materials, cooking utensils, a charcoal cook stove, wash basin, plastic jerry can, basic

foodstuffs, seeds, and garden tools.

Based on a recent assessment by Rick Augsburger, director of the CWS emergency response program, and International Disaster

Response Consultant Ivan DeKam, CWS will be working with partners that include the Christian Council of Mozambique, the

Presbyterian Church of Mozambique, the Council of Churches of Madagascar, FIKRIFAMA of Madagascar, and the South Africa Council

of Churches in Zimbabwe.

CWS issued another appeal March 18 for relief efforts in Mozambique. CWS reported that a major concern in the region now is whether or

not long-term aid will be available. This long-term work will be a major focus of the church network.

Week of Compassion, a giving program coordinated through the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), provided $46,000 in emergency

grants toward both relief and recovery efforts in this region of southern Africa. Included are two direct grants to partner churches in the

region, the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe, and the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa.

Action by Churches Together (ACT) has also distributed relief funds to Mozambique and South Africa. A CWS grant of $25,000 will go

toward relief efforts in Madagascar, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

After mechanical delays in Kenya, three planeloads of emergency aid sent through ACT have arrived in Mozambique. Nearly $1 million

worth of non-food items was aboard the planes. Protein biscuits were also rushed to communities, and water purification tablets were in

immediate demand as well. The entire water systems in Chokwe, Chibuto, and Xai Xai have failed, leaving people with only river water to


Family-sized tents and plastic sheeting will provide emergency shelter for those whose homes have been destroyed. Congolate, a

newly-created suburb of Maputo, will become the new home for 1,500 families that lost their homes to flooding in the Mozambican capital

last month.

Congolate, at a higher altitude than the informal settlement area, has already demarcated 15- by-30-meter plots for 3,000 families. There

are 50 families living there in tents the city provided and one of those tents has been turned into an informal market. Many families are in

the process of moving as soon as plot numbers are assigned.

In another part of the country, just as relief convoys recently began to make their way along roads that for weeks have been cut off by

floodwaters, the rains returned, presenting serious logistical problems for the international relief effort, aid workers said. A major road

from Beira to Save, in a badly affected region, was closed because of the downpours, delaying the distribution of supplies by truck. The

road was unlikely to reopen soon, according to WFP reports.

"Major rains have caused two breaks on the main road between Beira and Save, a lifeline for trade and commerce," said Abby Spring, WFP


Officials are encouraging flood survivors to remain in camps. "We understand that people want to go home. We know that life in the

camps is not pleasant, but conditions for their return are simply not yet in place," said Mozambique Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao.

Another major threat to flood survivors is malnutrition, particularly among children. Massive amounts of fertile farmland and crops have

been destroyed in the province of Maputo, Gaza, and Inhambane. Government authorities estimate that more than 247,000 planted acres

have been destroyed. Affected crops include corn, beans, rice, sweet potatoes, peanuts, and vegetables. There also has been a substantial

loss of cattle. In Gaza alone, 30,000 head of cattle have died. Estimates indicate that 62,600 farming households have been devastated by the


"We are very concerned about the immediate threat of malnutrition," said Dr. Sergio Soro, speaking from the UNICEF office in

Antananarivo. "If our assessments prove valid, the loss of the rice crop could mean serious malnutrition for hundreds of thousands of

people. Malnutrition will make people more vulnerable to illness, exacerbating serious health problems. At the same time, the loss of cash

crops like bananas and coffee takes away people's livelihood. The floods here (in Mozambique) have created a spiral of disaster. It's just

awful," he said.

When the rainy season ends in late March or early April, most of the flood victims are expected to leave the camps and return home. To

help Mozambique kick-start its local economy and help residents resurrect flood-ravaged communities, WFP plans to create a "food for

work" program. Residents who work to reconstruct schools and shops, rebuild bridges, railways and roads and, most important, plant

new crops, will be paid with food for their families.

The foreign minister said the government will continue to ask that its debts, which stand at about $1.3 billion, be written off. Many relief

organizations are beginning a second round of relief to Mozambique as its residents begin moving back to their towns and villages. The

Presbyterian Church of Mozambique is talking a leading role in responding to this crisis. Presbyterians are distributing food to those left

homeless by the flooding and also have secured a contract with WFP to administer emergency food assistance for eight months.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has forwarded $75,000 from One Great Hour of Sharing funds to support four major air shipments of

humanitarian supplies. The first plane landed March 4 with about 40 tons of relief goods. The flights carried a total cargo of approximately

160 metric tons of goods including plastic sheeting, emergency food, water purification tablets, tents, blankets, small motorboats, kitchen

sets, and medication.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has continued to dispatch shipments of relief supplies to Mozambique. One of the

most recent 15-ton shipments left March 1 and is expected to arrive within six weeks, said the Rev. Bob Osgood, based at UMCOR Depot in

Baldwin, LA. That shipment includes more than 7,000 health kits, 150 bedding packs, 150 home care kits, 3,300 emergency ration bars,

48,000 doses of oral re-hydration salts, more than 200,000 servings of dehydrated potatoes, and 3,000 units of mosquito netting.

Osgood said the shipment was flown to southern Africa and was being transported by land to United Methodist officials in Mozambique.

UMCOR also has sent $80,000 to help with relief efforts. The United Church of Christ has sent $10,000 to the United Congregational

Church of Southern Africa, which includes Mozambique and other flood-affected countries.

Bishop Dinis Sengulane of Mozambique, in a report to the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief, said that people

continue to flee their homes. Several priests are missing. Houses and churches are completely under water. The fund sent a $25,000

emergency grant to the Diocese of Lebombo and additional funds will be sent as they are received and as the needs are more clearly


The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee is working with local Reformed and Presbyterian churches to buy food in the region and

provide emergency assistance.

Lutheran World Relief (LWR) has provided food to 1,100 families in Maputo and Matola including a 50-ton shipment of blankets, kits, and

quilts worth $475,000. LWR is appealing for $1.9 million for emergency aid in both Mozambique and South Africa.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) continues to support relief efforts in Madagascar and Zimbabwe, providing access to potable water and

medical supplies. CRS, with the Catholic Development Education Office, is coordinating relief efforts to reach approximately 10,000

residents with basic food and essential household items.

The American Friends Service Committee is focusing on development activities in partnership with the Organization of Mozambican

Women. A staff of 12 Mozambicans works with rural women's groups in Manica Province. They will be assisting families who have lost

everything by providing household items such as cooking utensils and building and agricultural hand tools to help rebuild homes and

restore agricultural production.

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