Dateline ACT Mozambique 11/00: Update 21 March

By Elaine Eliah
As we make two steps forward we find ourselves taking one back. Or two back. This morning the news is that waters may again rise to dangerous levels in the Limpopo River. Our Gaza team learned of this last night at the evening coordination meeting held in Macia. It's believed that a week of heavy rains in South Africa will once again force that nation to open one of its dams. The team reports that no message was broadcast this morning on the radio warning residents to evacuate. We are taking steps to evacuate LWF workers in the area should the need arise. Authorities here in Maputo have almost no information to circulate and in fact welcome any field info I can feed into the system when Luis calls us by satellite phone from Gaza.

It's been raining here on the coast, in fact the main road from Maputo to Macia has again washed away, cutting off the entire Gaza area. Temporary repairs (bulldozed dirt with culvert) made to two earlier flood damaged areas continue to erode each time it rains. Our Gaza team, including Luis Anderson and Georgia, drove up there yesterday just before the road was cut. Georgia was carrying blankets, plastic, and medical supplies for further distribution.

Yesterday's INGC organizational meeting said over the weekend nearly 800 tons of food was distributed to affected areas and they were proud to announce that half of this had been transported by road. This road breach will seriously alter distribution in the Gaza area with helicopters being the only way to reach probably 200,000 people.

Meanwhile, we continue working on our rehabilitation plans even while preparing for another possible emergency. Seeds are coming into the country faster than we can buy and import them ourselves. We may very well be teaming up with World Relief to distribute seeds. We realized both organizations intended distributing to the same villages so are trying to work together on this.

These seeds were supposed to be in the country yesterday but for some overzealous customs man who held up several trucks at the Zimbabwe/Mozambique border. The seeds will be flown from Beira to Maputo as soon as they arrive with the help of the American military and the urgings of the American Ambassador. I have also learned that UNDP has set up monitoring system through an independent agency for tracking the seeds that are being bought by UNDP/Italian Government. This may ensure the Mozambican Ministry of Agriculture delivers what it has promised to deliver and might even hasten the delivery of the seed kits. This may mean if weather cooperates there is more than enough.

Monday the water/sanitation order arrived in Maputo and the portable water treatment system is already on the way to Moamba. It is expected to be in operation by tomorrow. Potable water will then be trucked into the town via a water bladder and delivered to standpoints for distribution. Engineer David Banks has been slowed a bit by a hand wound that has become infected but Knut Eker will hopefully be able to complete the physical plumbing with the help of local water technicians. A drilling unit is now in Congolote digging more boreholes. Displaced Maputo residents, of which LWF is sponsoring 500 families, are waiting for services to be developed so they can move there.

Meanwhile, the LWF team in Sofala is desperately trying to figure out how they're going to get a Land Cruiser out of the sand it's stuck in. Things are made a bit more urgent because it happens to be in the Buzi River which happens to be rising at this point.

Way too much time around here seems to go into all these little technicalities - like clearing equipment through customs at the airport. This morning the telephones around Maputo were sporadic (that's putting it mildly) and the office line was inoperable for some time. LWF-Maputo is also working to finalize the budget for the Mozambique operation even as things here on the ground continue to change.


Elaine Eliah is a press officer currently working for ACT-.LWF in Mozambique (mobile phone: + 27 82 85 89 106).

For further information you can also contact: Nils Carstensen (mobile + 41 79 358 3171).

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ACT is a worldwide network of churches and related agencies meeting human need through coordinated emergency response.

The ACT Coordinating Office is based with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Switzerland.