By Andra Stevens [Stevens is director
of information at Africa University.]
MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS) - Students and staff at Africa University are responding with cash and in-kind donations to their flood-ravaged and waterlogged neighbors in Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Torrential rains and flooding from Cyclone Eline have left large sections of the three countries under water. At least 371 people are reported dead, and hundreds of thousands have been left homeless, stranded and hungry since the rain began falling three weeks ago. New flooding is frustrating efforts to distribute food and water, and thousands are at risk from water-borne disease, malaria and hunger.
All of the staff members at United Methodist-related Africa University have pledged to donate a day's salary to aid disaster victims. The 871 students are contributing Z$100 (US$2.63) each from their student union fund. The school expects to gather nearly Z$1 million (US$26,316) for relief and humanitarian efforts in the three countries. Clothing, shoes and blankets are also being collected for the relief effort.
"Africa University is being built through the selfless giving of people we have never seen, so much is expected of us," said Professor Rukudzo Murapa, vice chancellor at the university. "We must lead by example in giving to others."
Africa's response to the current suffering was too slow and too little, with only the South African and Botswana governments sending help to Mozambique, Murapa said. "What are we doing as churches, governments, institutions, businesses and individuals to help our neighbors?"
Classes and regular business were suspended at mid-day on Feb. 29 as the university community met to plan its response to the crisis.
The Rev. Shirley DeWolfe, the World Council of Churches regional coordinator for ministry with uprooted people, reported that the situation in the affected areas was dreadful and the tragedy was building momentum. DeWolfe had just returned from visits to Mozambique and South Africa to assess critical needs and help articulate the churches' response.
Theology student Sophrina Sign gave a moving sermon based on Matthew 5:7. "Love is not love," she reminded the community, "until you give it away."
"The fact that we are an international community makes us vulnerable every time there is pain anywhere on the continent," said the Rev. Kingston Kajese, a member of Africa University's outreach committee. "We have been involved in disaster and emergency management training, and some of our members are directly affected. How can we do nothing?"
Since June 1998, Africa University has trained more than 100 midlevel emergency field officers from 25 African countries. The training project, to build African capacity to respond to and manage disasters and emergencies, is a collaborative effort that involves an ecumenical humanitarian network called Action By Churches Together (ACT) and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).
UMCOR has airlifted 750 new blankets,
10,000 doses of oral re-hydration salts, 800 packs of mosquito netting,
1,060 bars of emergency survival rations, 65,100 servings of dehydrated
diced potatoes and two water-purification units to Mozambique. The agency
is also forwarding money to help buy medicine and other items, and it is
shipment of supplies. The Mozambican town of Chaqualane is expected to become the base of operations for relief efforts since many flood victims have already gathered there.
"This is a situation where we are in the front line ourselves," Kajese said.
In addition to working with UMCOR and ACT, the university is linking up with other relief and humanitarian aid agencies to offer in-kind and technical assistance. Two staff members are part of a Christian Care Zimbabwe survey team visiting communities in Manicaland Province, Zimbabwe, to assess flood damage.
The school is also working on a proposal to adopt an affected community and to assist in its recovery by providing technical know-how and other resources.
You can support UMCOR's response to this disaster through donations to UMCOR Advance #156500-0, designated either "Mozambique" or "South Africa." Checks may be dropped in United Methodist church collection plates or mailed directly to UMCOR at 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Credit-card donations can be made by calling (800) 554-8583. At this point, financial gifts are the most effective way to respond to this emergency.
One hundred percent of your gift goes to this emergency. The generous giving of United Methodists to the One Great Hour of Sharing supplements the cost of Advance gifts. See also: You Can Help Disaster Victims, More about UMCOR.
United Methodist Committee on Relief
Room 330, 475 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10115
Voice Phone: 212-870-3816; FAX: 212-870-3624