Baptist World Aid Update on Mozambique floods

Baptist World Aid (BWAid), the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance, is continuing to provide funds for the relief effort in Mozambique and other parts of Southern Africa.
Jeronimo Cessito, the general secretary of the Mozambique Baptist Convention, has requested help from the worldwide Baptist family. Local churches have been helping, but Cessito has now appealed to "partners from Africa and around the world, especially the Baptist family." He emphasized the need for food, clothing, cooking utensils, tents, medicine and water purification.

BWAid has already sent $5,000 to the Convention and will send more funds this week for the local and immediate purchase of some of these goods.

Cessito also reported another tragedy to BWAid Director Paul Montacute. Pastor Daipo Candiero, the president of the Conventions mission board, was killed in a car accident on February 27. Candiero was returning from showing the Jesus film in a village, and leaves his wife Terezinha and son David.

John Benn, of the Baptist Union of South Africa, is a member of a relief team to Mozambique, comprised of five South African young people and six volunteers from the USA the team are setting up water purification units and kitchens.

Benn reported that the situation is getting more and more desperate. Tens of thousands of people were rescued from trees and roofs, only to be put down on higher ground where they have nothing. "This means that there are large numbers of people," he said, "surrounded by water with nothing, absolutely nothing!"

Baptists in South Africa are now collecting and purchasing sheets and blankets, clothing, cooking pots, buckets, paraffin cooking stoves, dry and canned food, vitamins, malaria medication and other essential supplies. Bibles and tracts will also be distributed. Money is required to purchase and ship the goods, and this is one way in which BWAid is helping.

Eduardo de Melo, a Portuguese missionary with the European Baptist Mission and working in Mozambique, reported on Saturday March 4, that the situation was worsening in the Limpopo area as the waters continued to rise. He indicated that EBM are already helping local families, and will be helping people from the Macia, Messano and Maxixe areas, while the Convention will be helping the areas of Chibabava and Machange in Sofala Province.

BWAid has also heard of the cyclone damage in South Africa, and is awaiting a report from Pastor Jonas Bvumbi in Thohoyandou about the situation in Venda. Bvumbi is the regional president of the Baptist Convention of South Africa for the Venda area.

From Zimbabwe, reports have reached BWAid from the Baptist Convention and Union, but specific requests for assistance are still awaited. Convention President, Chamunorwa Chiromo reported, "the damage to lives and property is unprecedented," and Geoff Longley from the Union reported, "the need is enormous."

Baptist development worker Chuck Stephens, a Canadian, believes 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 (boreholes, bridges, roads, dykes, clinics, schools, you name it) will be by far the greater need," he implored.

Stephens has pointed out that Mozambique was only just beginning to recover from years of civil war, and that the economy of the country depended heavily on the now flooded areas. It was in this area that the wealth of migrant workers to South Africa was used in building up the infrastructure, small businesses and farms. "So if there was one part of the country that was relatively well off, this was it," said Stephens. "Mozambicans still store most of their wealth in cattle, a time honored African tradition, which still makes sense in a country which does not use banks for saving or investment. So, on top of the lives lost, and the infrastructure and equipment that got sunk or washed away, the livestock losses are the most devastating of all." Stephens believes that many men have helped the women and children to leave, but have stayed with their cattle; believing they might as well drown as they will have nothing left to start with if their cattle die!

Baptist World Aid urgently needs funds so that it can continue to support both the relief and the long-term rehabilitation work in Mozambique and surrounding countries.