Mozambique

Economic and Social Council meets to discuss situation in Mozambique

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ECOSOC/5885
According to a statement read out by the President of the Economic and Social Council, Makarim Wibisono (Indonesia), this afternoon, the next humanitarian segment of the Council’s 2000 substantive session will address the issue of coordination of United Nations humanitarian and disaster relief assistance to Mozambique.

The statement, which the Council decided to transmit to the Government and people of Mozambique, called on governments to intensify their relief efforts to assist Mozambique to recover from the devastation caused by the floods and to launch efforts for the reconstruction and development of that country. Recognizing with appreciation the ongoing efforts of the United Nations system, international financial institutions, inter-regional, regional and non- governmental organizations and the private sector, the Council also called upon all of them to accelerate their efforts in a coordinated manner, to provide a continuum of relief and assistance to the Government and people of Mozambique.

As the Council met to discuss the situation in Mozambique, that country’s Permanent Representative stressed the negative impact of the recent unprecedented floods on the economic and social situation in the country, and its effects on Mozambique's development efforts. The threat of epidemics, as well as the question of food security in the country must be addressed. Also, serious demining action would be needed after the water subsided, because the floods had shifted deadly explosives, which presented a serious threat. In addition to the need for emergency relief, he stressed the importance of establishing medium- and long-term assistance programmes.

The Director of Policy, Advocacy and Information Division of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Ed Tsui, said that the initial focus of the relief efforts had been placed on saving lives. An appeal for international assistance had been issued on 23 February for a total of $65 million. The Secretary-General had appointed Ross Mountain as his Special Humanitarian Envoy to the area, and some 250,000 people were now sheltered in 74 camps. Priority areas of assistance had been identified, and many countries had sent their teams and equipment to the disaster area in a dramatic outpouring of support.

He stressed that the greatest challenges still lay ahead. The United Nations was carrying out a six-month transitional appeal to allow the reconstruction of facilities and infrastructure, and a donor meeting would be held in April to address the longer-term rehabilitation needs.

The Director of the World Food Programme Liaison Office, Mona Hammam, said that by 24 February, the WFP had launched an international relief campaign. For the first time in WFP history, logistics equipment had been converted to support a search and rescue operation. The Programme was continuing air operations with the South African Defence Force. Within its logistic ability, the WFP was helping to rehabilitate roads in order to move all humanitarian assistance.

Senior Programme Officer of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Nicholas Alipui said that UNICEF had been present in Mozambique for 20 years. When the disaster struck, funds had immediately been diverted from regular programmes towards strengthening coordination through the government system. The UNICEF had taken a lead role in water, sanitation and hygiene interventions.

Acting Director of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Africa, Abdoulie Janneh, said that the donor conference in April would be followed by consultations on the long-term development prospects for the area affected by the floods. Funds would be directed towards rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country. On the issue of landmines, the UNDP, together with other agencies, intended to launch a campaign to raise awareness of landmines before the displaced people were allowed to return home.

Most speakers in today's debate stressed the importance of continuing assistance to Mozambique's rehabilitation efforts after the initial emergency response. Many delegations pledged continued help to the devastated country, and several speakers emphasized the need to include a paragraph on Mozambique's debt cancellation in a draft resolution to be considered by the General Assembly in the near future.

Speaking this afternoon were the representatives of Portugal (on behalf of the European Union and associated countries), Nigeria (on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China), Brazil, Italy, Rwanda, South Africa, Costa Rica, Cameroon, Namibia, Finland, Guinea-Bissau, Pakistan, United Republic of Tanzania, Cape Verde, Algeria, New Zealand, India and Bahrain.

Also addressing the Council this afternoon was the Emergency Relief Coordinator, a.i., Carolyn McAskie.

The Economic and Social Council will continue its organizational session at a date to be announced.

Council Work Programme

When the Economic and Social Council met this afternoon, it was expected to be briefed on the situation in Mozambique by that country’s Permanent Representative, Carlos Dos Santos, and representatives of the United Nations, including the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Food Programme (WFP) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Statements

MAKARIM WIBISONO (Indonesia), President of the Economic and Social Council, said that today’s meeting had been called in view of the human tragedy in Mozambique. One of the Council’s main mandates under the United Nations Charter was coordination, and perhaps one of the most important areas requiring coordination was the provision of humanitarian assistance in the face of natural disasters.

CARLOS DOS SANTOS (Mozambique) said that as a result of unprecedented and devastating floods, his country had suffered a massive loss of life and material property, as well as destruction of the country’s infrastructure. The figures were striking, with more than 900,000 people in need of assistance. Thousands of people were without shelter, food and clean water.

His Government had taken urgent measures to address the situation, he said. Donations were being collected throughout the country. Senior cabinet members had been dispatched to the affected areas. With the precious help of neighbouring countries, the first relief operations had been conducted in February. That month, the first humanitarian appeal had been also launched. With the help of the international community, the emergency response was already progressing, when yet another cyclone swept through the country, causing vast flows of water. On 23 February, the second emergency appeal had been launched. The trail of devastation had led to a ministerial-level meeting in Pretoria on 3 March, with participation of Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The affected countries had committed themselves to cooperation to overcome the outcome of the floods and develop a regional action plan.

The negative impact of the disaster on the economic and social situation in the country was enormous, he continued. It was necessary to urgently address the threat of cholera and malaria in the country. The country’s development efforts, including those to overcome food dependence, had been undermined by the floods, and food security was in danger. Another area of concern was the danger of landmines, for water had shifted deadly explosives, which presented a serious threat. Serious mine action was needed after the water subsided. Rehabilitation and reconstruction also needed to be addressed.

In its efforts to deal with the catastrophe, the country had benefited from international assistance, he continued. He expressed gratitude for messages of sympathy, as well as aid and assistance, which were coming from different parts of the world. Much-needed help to those who had lost their homes was coming to the country. However, besides emergency relief programmes, it was necessary to establish medium- and long-term programmes. Speedy resettlement of displaced people was needed. Roads, bridges, schools needed to be rebuilt. Effective coordination of the efforts of the Government, the international bodies and the international community was essential.

A joint technical team had been dispatched to the country to prepare a report on the needs of the country for the upcoming international donor meeting, he said. Throughout the disaster, the United Nations had played an important role in mobilizing assistance to the country. His country was requesting support for the draft text on assistance to Mozambique, which was to be considered by the General Assembly in the near future.

ED TSUI, Director of Policy, Advocacy and Information Division of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that unprecedented floods had caused an area the size of Switzerland to be submerged under water. Two natural disasters had hit the country within weeks. Five days after the first heavy rains, the first coordination and assessment team had been dispatched to the country. An appeal for international assistance had been issued on 23 February for a total of $65 million, of which the United Nations requirements had been $13.6 million. The Secretary-General had appointed Ross Mountain as his Special Humanitarian Envoy to the area. Some 250,000 people were now sheltered in 74 camps. Altogether, 700,000 people were targeted for food aid over the next six months.

With the support of the United Nations, the focus of the Government of Mozambique had been on the task of saving lives. The challenge initially had been to organize evacuation of those in danger. Offers from many countries of more than 50 helicopters, numerous aircraft and boats had been received within days of the disaster. Clean water, medicine, shelter and food were being provided to the people. Relevant United Nations agencies and NGOs were addressing the needs of the population.

Strengthening the management in response to the crisis was important, he continued. The United Nations supported current operations in the country. Priority areas of assistance had been identified. It was necessary to support the Government and to prevent the premature return of people to their villages. The problem of mines also needed to be addressed. Reconstruction of the infrastructure was of utmost importance. Particular tribute should be paid to the efforts of the South African armed forces, which had rescued more than 14,000 stranded people last week. Many countries had sent their teams and equipment to the disaster area in a dramatic outpouring of support. The latest list of contributions had been made available to the delegates.

He said that the media had played a critical role in spreading information about the flood. The greatest challenges, however, still lay ahead. The United Nations was carrying out a six-month transitional appeal to allow the reconstruction of facilities and infrastructure. A donor meeting would be held in April to address the longer-term rehabilitation needs in Mozambique. Several other countries, including Swaziland, Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Madagascar had been affected by the disaster. They also required assistance on the part of the international community. The United Nations had started a survey of the affected areas, and was planning coordination efforts there.

MONA HAMMAM, Director, World Food Programme (WFP) Liaison Office, said that Mozambique was a major regional hub for the WFP. A regional programme already in Mozambique allowed WFP to respond almost immediately to the rains with direct distribution of food beginning on 7 February, even before the Government had launched an appeal for assistance. Gaza, Maputo and Inhambane were the worst affected provinces. Roads, homes and bridges had been destroyed and electricity supplies disrupted. The WFP had released funds on 17 February and by 24 February it had launched an international relief campaign.

It was the first time in WFP history in which logistics equipment had been converted to support a search and rescue operation, she said. That had become the main priority. One of the indelible images was the woman who had taken shelter on a tree branch and delivered a baby while stranded on the tree. One of the WFP helicopters had been involved in that rescue. The WFP was continuing air operations with the South African Defence Force. They were appealing for a second phase of that operation for a six-month period.

Within its logistic ability, WFP was helping to rehabilitate roads in order to be able to move all humanitarian assistance, from all sister agencies, overland, she said. Much of the reconstruction work being performed was to facilitate the movement of humanitarian cargo and to allow access to the people in need, through cheaper means than aircraft. The WFP’s resource was food and its capacity to shift from development programme to an immediate emergency operation. The WFP’s response could have been faster had its means not been reprioritized to a rescue operation before it had begun distributing relief supplies.

NICHOLAS ALIPUI, Senior Programme Officer, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said that helping with flood relief had followed several years involvement in support of Mozambique and the effects of the civilian war on that country. In the post-conflict situation, UNICEF had worked on strengthening office capacity and preparing and implementing a regular programme of assistance. The UNICEF had been present in Mozambique for over 20 years, enabling it to rapidly meet needs assessment and relief of flood victims.

The Fund’s main strategy had been to help strengthen government coordination through government structures and to help boost disaster relief capacity in the country, he said. When disaster struck, funds were immediately diverted from regular programmes and applied to strengthening coordination through the government system. Through Headquarters, additional emergency programme funds were released to meet critical needs before donor contributions started coming in. The Fund’s Executive Director had visited the region in February, allowing her to help energize the United Nation’s response to the floods.

Of the estimated 900,000 victims, 180,000 were children under the age of five, he said. The number of internally displaced persons was estimated at 230,000, of which 46,000 were children under five. The immediate flood crisis focused attention on critical life-saving activities. A 40-ton shipment of essential medical supplies and drugs had been airlifted to Maputo on 16 February, including vaccines and oral rehydration salts. The Fund had taken a lead role in water, sanitation and hygiene interventions. It would also continue support to the Central Hospital in Maputo to deal with cholera through basic supplies and technical assistance. Reunification of children with families was an area in which UNICEF had a long history and experience.

Much remained to be done, but in the immediate term UNICEF was planning to continue to distribute supplies in the country and was working with the ministry of health, he said. It was also planning major vaccination campaigns.

ABDOULIE JANNEH, Acting Director of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Africa, said that the international community had responded promptly to the appeal for Mozambique in February. The UNDP was working closely with the Institute for Disaster Management and other international agencies to overcome the consequences of the floods. A coordination centre had been set up, which was facilitating implementation of international efforts. A special UNDP emergency team had been dispatched to the country. The UNDP was supporting efforts of the Government of the country aimed at resource mobilization. Some countries had already channelled their contribution through the Programme. The forthcoming donor conference in April would be followed by consultations on the long-term development prospects for the area affected by the floods.

Funds would be directed towards rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country, he continued. Seeds would be purchased for the farmers to be used in the upcoming farming season. On the issue of landmines, the UNDP, together with other agencies, intended to launch a campaign to raise the awareness of landmines before the displaced people were allowed to return home. Mozambique was littered with as many as 2 million landmines. Many of them were now hidden in the mud. The Programme was fully aware of the enormity of the tasks facing Mozambique and was prepared to work in a coordinated manner with other partners to face the challenges.

ANTONIO MONTEIRO (Portugal), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said that the Union deplored the loss of human lives and property in Mozambique. The tragedy was exacerbated by the fact that Mozambique had been making remarkable progress, which had been undermined by the natural disaster. Mozambique deserved the solidarity of the international community in its efforts to recover from the human and economic effects of the disaster.

The European Union would stand together with the victims to rebuild the country and clear mines, he continued. It had announced that it would increase to 150 million euros its development assistance to Mozambique for the year 2000. European response to the disaster had been timely and positive. A more effective link between emergency efforts and rebuilding and reconstruction programmes was required. The United Nations had already put in place the coordination structures on the ground. The European Union was ready to help Mozambique and its people at this tragic hour.

AUSTIN PETER ETANOMARE OSIO (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said that today’s meeting was crucial. Natural disasters could strike anywhere, but life must continue. Assistance had been coming from all international organizations and other partners, and it was most welcome. The appeal launched for Mozambique must be followed with concrete actions. The issue united humanity not only at times of joy, but also at times of sadness. For the first time, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council had been united in their approach to the calamity. The issue of assistance was of great importance to developing countries, and it was heartening that the General Assembly was planning to adopt a resolution on the situation in Mozambique tomorrow.

GELSON FONSECA (Brazil) said that Brazilians had a strong sense of solidarity with Mozambicans and were following the tragedy very closely. The continuation of relief efforts demanded substantial assistance from the international community. While it was essential that bilateral assistance be issued, long-term support must also be considered. Brazil was very concerned about both the short and long-term consequences of the floods on the people of Mozambique. Brazil would want the Economic and Social Council to follow-up with briefings on the flood situation.

PIER BENEDETTO FRANCESE (Italy) said the tragedy affected the entire international community. Italy had already contributed to the peace in Mozambique and was, in that same spirit, contributing to flood relief efforts. Italy had just announced its intention to cancel Mozambique’s bilateral debt and had promptly reacted to appeals to assist in flood relief. Italian civil society had also been mobilized to deal with the floods. A programme that would cover the health and social sectors and would be supplemented with the help of NGOs in Mozambique would be initiated. Money would also be dispersed for early reconstruction activities. That would be part of a larger amount, which had been allocated for the country before the emergency.

Recalling what had been stated in last year’s humanitarian segment of the Economic and Social Council, there was a need for a comprehensive approach for complex emergencies. Italy called for the holding of an international conference to assist the Government of Mozambique in reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts. Such a conference would provide the best opportunity to focus aid. It was never too early to plan for critical moments.

JOSEPH MUTABOBA (Rwanda) said that his delegation wanted to thank the Ambassador of Mozambique for providing a report on the situation. Rwanda expressed its condolences and strong support for the people of Mozambique. He also congratulated the countries that had made efforts to save lives. As an Economic and Social Council member, Rwanda was sensitive to work that had been done and hoped that agencies could increase their efforts. Money meant nothing without action.

The international community must find a way to alleviate the suffering of the people of Mozambique, he said. The floods had caused more victims than drought had elsewhere.

PIETER ANDRIES VERMEULEN (South Africa) said that today’s briefing had been very useful in giving an overview of precisely what was going on in Mozambique and what was needed in the flood area. As a neighbour, his country had come to the assistance of Mozambique, because its plight was close to the hearts of his people.

He stressed the importance of last week’s ministerial-level meeting in Pretoria, for the disaster had not only demonstrated the readiness of the international community to provide assistance, but also highlighted some deficiencies in the coordination of the efforts. The meeting had focused not only on the particular disaster, but also on the need to address the framework for dealing with future emergencies. Experience on the ground had been discussed.

The donor agencies often drew a distinction between humanitarian relief and reconstruction assistance, he continued, but such an approach did not have merit, for one was impossible without the other. It was necessary to plan for future disasters. The ministers had pledged that they would continue work at the next meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It had been pointed out that before assistance was provided to any country, it would be useful to contact the government of the country in question in advance. The ministers had also acknowledged that while several countries had been affected, the needs of Mozambique were the most pressing. In that respect, the upcoming April donor conference would be of utmost importance. Much still needed to be done.

MARIA ELENA CHASSOUL (Costa Rica) said her country’s people and Government had been deeply moved by the tragedy in Mozambique. Those were no empty words, for Costa Rica had been victim of natural disasters in the past. International cooperation was indispensable to mitigate the consequences of such catastrophes. After the first emergency assistance had been provided, it was necessary to continue rebuilding efforts. During this year’s humanitarian segment of the Economic and Social Council, it was necessary to address the problem of mitigating the consequences of natural disasters.

MARTIN BELINGA-EBOUTOU (Cameroon) endorsed the statement of the representative of Nigeria on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and said that today’s meeting had enabled the delegations to take stock of the toll taken by the floods and to evaluate the response of the international community. It had also demonstrated that other countries stood shoulder to shoulder with the people of Mozambique at this difficult time. The damage was vast, and the needs were immense. The country was classified among the least developed, and it had just emerged from a long civil war. The disaster was the last thing Mozambique needed.

He said that there was no question that emergency aid was being provided to the country. The challenges before Mozambique included the need to cope with reconstruction and the problems of mines. Mozambique would also have to struggle with normalizing life. The reaction of the international community had been reassuring. It enabled the people of Mozambique to see that through tangible action, the peoples of the United Nations were supporting them. The upcoming session of the Economic and Social Council should include an item on coordination of assistance to Mozambique.

SELMA NDEYAPO ASHIPALA-MUSAVYI (Namibia) associated herself with the position of the Group of 77 and China. She said that her country appreciated the assistance provided to the people of Mozambique. An important point had been made today that Mozambique would need long-term assistance, and her delegation was heartened by the decision of Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States, Portugal and others to cancel the debt of Mozambique, in part or in total. She hoped others would follow their example. The disaster in Mozambique had reversed all the gains of that country, which would need international assistance. In conclusion, she appealed to her colleagues to include in the draft resolution on Mozambique a paragraph on the cancellation of debt.

MATTI KAARIAINEN (Finland) said that his Government wanted to announce that it would contribute an additional 7 million Finn Marks ($1,150,000) of assistance to be channeled through the WFP.

JOAO SOARES DA GAMA (Guinea-Bissau) said the tragedy that had destroyed Mozambique’s infrastructure had come about at a time when everybody recognized the effort Mozambique had been making in developing the country. Guinea-Bissau would spare no effort to supply every support for the work being done for the people of Mozambique. The international community must be praised for the efforts it had made and for the speedy way in which it had helped Mozambique. The international community must be encouraged to redouble efforts to bring emergency aid.

Substantial aid would have to be given, he said. Among the many problems facing Mozambique, the landmine problem had yet to be solved. A project for finding landmines must be funded.

MARIAM AFTAB (Pakistan) expressed his country’s condolences and support for the relief efforts.

TUVAKO MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) said that his delegation also supported the appeal to cancel Mozambique’s bilateral debt obligations.

JOSE LUIS BARBOSA LEAO MONTEIRO (Cape Verde) said that the outcome of today’s meeting was the display of coordinated readiness for action, which was beginning to bear fruit. That was encouraging. He too joined those who had expressed gratitude to the donors. It was easier to get help at the time of a disaster, but the effects of floods would be felt for a long time. For that reason, it was necessary to ensure long-term help for Mozambique. The international community must continue to act in concert and ensure that the people of Mozambique got the necessary help. He also supported the proposal that question of the cancellation of Mozambique’s debt be included in the draft resolution to be examined tomorrow by the General Assembly.

ABDERRAHMANE MEROUANE (Algeria) said that the assistance provided to Mozambique was of utmost importance. He also supported the proposal to include a paragraph on cancellation of the debt of Mozambique in tomorrow’s draft in the General Assembly.

GRANT ROBERTSON (New Zealand) reiterated the deep sympathy of his people for the people of Mozambique. His country had offered all possible help to that country. In addition to the $150,000 provided through OCHA, New Zealand had dedicated $200,000 through the UNICEF for educational materials, and $100,000 for an accelerated United Nations programme of demining. In addition, today it had announced a contribution of $6.3 million to the International Monetary Fund/World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative Trust Fund.

SATYABRATA PAL (India) also expressed sympathy for the people of Mozambique and said that the enormous challenge of relief and rehabilitation lay before the international community. It was necessary to provide not only immediate emergency assistance but also rehabilitation aid. His country had sent help to that country and it would continue to provide it in the future.

RASHID AL-DOSARI (Bahrain) said that coordination of urgent humanitarian assistance was very important. He expressed deep condolences to the people of Mozambique and to the families of the victims. He also expressed appreciation to all those who had provided urgent relief to that country and said that the assistance must continue to be provided in the future. Now it was necessary to consider the question of how to limit suffering in similar circumstances in the future and to reduce the impact of such disasters. Specialized agencies of the United Nations could play an important role in that respect.

CAROLYN MCASKIE, Emergency Relief Coordinator, a.i., said that it was an indescribably difficult time for Mozambique and its neighbours. She thanked the governments that continued to make contributions to relief efforts. It was extremely gratifying that more contributions were coming in every moment. The OCHA was vigilantly keeping an eye on the clouds, yet was hopeful that it was moving into a stage of stabilization and reconstruction.

The Office would ensure that it continued to provide reports and briefings both formally and informally on the situation, she said. A distinction must be made between natural hazards and the disastrous effects of natural disasters. A range of options could help governments. At times of tragedy, the donor community was most ready to contribute. It was important to look to the future.

Mr. WIBISONO (Indonesia), President of the Economic and Social Council, said that members of the Council endorsed the appeal of the Government of Mozambique to the international community for assistance, and paid tribute to the Government and people of that country for their untiring and intensive efforts to respond to the devastation which had occurred. The Council expressed its appreciation to the international community for its support to Mozambique. It called on all governments to intensify their relief efforts to assist Mozambique in recovering from the devastation caused by the floods and to launch reconstruction and development initiatives.

He said Council members recognized the ongoing efforts of the United Nations and its specialized agencies and bodies, international financial institutions, interregional and regional organizations, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. The Council called upon those groups to accelerate their efforts, in a coordinated manner, to provide a continuum of relief and assistance to Mozambique. To that end, the Council would ensure that the next humanitarian segment of its substantive session in 2000 addressed the issue of coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief of the United Nations to Mozambique.

The Council then decided to transmit the President’s statement to the Government and people of Mozambique.