Mozambique

Aid Agencies focus on Long-Term Recovery in Mozambique

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Written by Cynthia Long, Managing Editor, DisasterRelief.org
The floodwaters are receding in Mozambique and the rainy season will soon draw to a close - welcome news to the tens of thousands of flood refugees and the humanitarian aid agencies struggling to help them. But the planned pullout of international military aircraft has relief workers worried about delivering supplies to areas still cut off by the flooding.

The United States, Germany and Malawi are expected to withdraw from the region as relief operations wind down. When they go, they'll take their helicopters and cargo aircraft with them - aircraft aid workers have relied upon to deliver supplies.

Without the use of military helicopters, aid workers will have to deliver supplies to flood refugees by truck or commercial aircraft. "Some roads are open, but there are other roads that are not," Aya Shneerson, spokesperson for the World Food Program, told Reuters. "There are a lot of island locations that are still dependent on helicopters."

Britain withdrew its military aircraft but continues to charter five private helicopters for relief missions. The South African Air Force, which won praise for its rescues of people stranded in trees and on rooftops, is expected to decide this week how much longer it would remain.

The U.S., which has about 700 military personnel, six helicopters, nine fixed-wing aircraft and other logistical equipment in the region, will pull out in phases as commercial aircraft take over. "Those planes will be cheaper than our stuff and it makes sense to switch to something more economical," U.S. Air Force spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Tom Dolney told Reuters.

Aid Workers Focus on Long Term

While emergency operations wind down, the long-term relief effort is about to begin. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Mozambique would need at least $13 million to help farmers rebuild homes and plant crops in flood-ravaged fields in time for the September harvest.

"There are more than 120,000 farmers and their families in desperate need of assistance in the southern and central provinces of Mozambique," said Anne M. Bauer, chief of FAO's special relief operations service. "They need emergency support so they can rebuild their homes and fields to start planting immediately and prepare for the main agricultural season, which begins next September."

Roads, irrigation systems and farm equipment were badly damaged by the country's worst flooding in half a century. Many farm animals were drowned and animal disease control facilities were destroyed, Bauer said.

The floods washed away roads, bridges, fields and farm equipment.

Almost 140,000 hectares of crops such as maize, beans, rice, sweet potatoes, groundnuts (peanuts) and vegetables have been ruined or seriously harmed, while many food and seed stocks were washed away.

FAO estimates that 350,000 cattle, goats and sheep - between 70 to 80 percent of the livestock in the affected areas - have died or been seriously injured in the flood. Animal diseases, which have become a significant threat since the flood as stray cattle drink from stagnant, contaminated water, could kill more.

While money from the $13 million appeal will go to rebuilding the agricultural infrastructure and economy. The FAO will also use the funds for the most basic of emergency relief efforts - they will jump start the long-term relief operation by providing seeds and tools to the farmers.

As the emergency phase of the relief operation comes to an end, other relief agencies are now beginning to focus on the continuing recovery of the affected population. The Red Cross, for example, is looking at the long-term rehabilitation needs of Mozambique, with the same priority of providing seeds and tools before the planting season ends.

Red Cross Also Focuses on Zimbabwe

Beyond helping Mozambique's flood refugees, the Red Cross is also hard at work in Zimbabwe, a southern African country also deluged by the late-February floods. The situation remains critical in some areas of Zimbabwe, especially where accessibility is still difficult.

The cash-strapped country is struggling with a longtime, nationwide fuel crisis and helicopters are not available for delivering supplies. The floods affected more than 100,000 people, and 20,000 are still homeless.

Elisabeth Chinyangarara, program coordinator of the Masvingo Red Cross branch, helps distribute relief supplies. In the worst affected areas, the water washed away entire villages, including livestock and food reserves. The home of Siphiwe Shakara, near Masvingo, vanished in seconds as a torrent of water rushed through her village. A mother of five who is caring for an additional seven relatives, Shakara is worried about food shortages.

"I thank the Red Cross for the food that we get," she said. "But they are the only ones to help us and it is not enough. The wet maize is rotting in the fields. If the rain stopped, I would dry whatever is still good for eating. But this is in God's hands, not mine."

Delivering food to the flooded communities has been difficult with many bridges and roads washed away. The displaced are forced to walk for hours through swamps and mud to get food, blankets and tents.

Despite the logistical problems, the Zimbabwe Red Cross corps of volunteers is growing. Elisabeth Chinyangarara, program coordinator of the Masvingo Red Cross branch, said she is recruiting more and more volunteers every day. "Some would like to join because they think they will get food everyday, but the vast majority are willing to help just to express solidarity."

The Red Cross volunteers are helping to spread an important message about preventing the spread of disease through water sanitation, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). When the volunteers arrive in remote villages, they are always welcomed by songs and dances, even though at times they bring only goodwill and advice rather than food or supplies.

Red Cross volunteers explain water sanitation to Zimbabwe's flood refugees.

As flood victims sit under a tree and listen, the volunteers encourage them to use clean water, build latrines and prevent disease. So far, the Red Cross message has been working and cholera and other waterborne diseases have failed to take hold in Zimbabwe, allowing the flood refugees to concentrate their energies on the arduous process of rebuilding.

DisasterRelief.org is a unique partnership between the American Red Cross, IBM and CNN dedicated to providing information about disasters and their relief operations worldwide. The three-year-old website is a leading disaster news source and also serves as a conduit for those wishing to donate to disaster relief operations around the globe through the international Red Cross movement.

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All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013.

The American Red Cross is dedicated to helping make families and communities safer at home and around the world. The Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organization that annually provides almost half the nation's blood supply, trains nearly 12 million people in vital life-saving skills, mobilizes relief to victims in more than 60,000 disasters nationwide, provides direct health services to 2.5 million people, assists international disaster and conflict victims in more than 20 countries, and transmits more than 1.4 million emergency messages to members of the Armed Forces and their families. If you would like information on Red Cross services and programs please contact your local Red Cross.

=A9 Copyright 1999, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.

DisasterRelief
DisasterRelief.org is a unique partnership between the American Red Cross, IBM and CNN dedicated to providing information about disasters and their relief operations worldwide. The three-year-old website is a leading disaster news source and also serves as a conduit for those wishing to donate to disaster relief operations around the globe through the international Red Cross movement. American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. The American Red Cross is dedicated to helping make families and communities safer at home and around the world. The Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organization that annually provides almost half the nation's blood supply, trains nearly 12 million people in vital life-saving skills, mobilizes relief to victims in more than 60,000 disasters nationwide, provides direct health services to 2.5 million people, assists international disaster and conflict victims in more than 20 countries, and transmits more than 1.4 million emergency messages to members of the Armed Forces and their families. If you would like information on Red Cross services and programs please contact your local Red Cross. © Copyright, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.