General Assembly calls for urgent response to Mozambique Disaster following recent unprecedented floods in that country

Press Release - GA/9701 - 20000310
The General Assembly this morning urged the international community, the United Nations system, international financial institutions and non-governmental organization to respond urgently and provide assistance to Mozambique's relief and rehabilitation efforts, following the recent devastating floods in that country.

The Assembly did that by adopting, without a vote, a resolution introduced by the representative of Egypt entitled "Assistance to Mozambique following the devastating floods.

Among other terms of the text, the Assembly expressed its deep concern for the country of Mozambique and its people following the tragic loss of human life and extensive destruction of property and infrastructure caused by the recent unprecedented flooding. It also requested the Secretary-General to continue to mobilize and coordinate assistance for reconstruction and rehabilitation of the infrastructure.

Following adoption of the resolution, Mozambique's representative told the Assembly that his Government had taken the necessary measures to address its unfolding tragedy. Generous assistance had already been received, but the Government had recently launched a second international emergency appeal for some $65 million. Sustainable development, speedy recovery and normalization of affected people's lives, medium- and long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts would be possible only with adequate, timely and steady assistance from the international community. The resolution adopted by the Assembly today would be an appropriate framework for action in support of his Government's efforts.

Emergency relief programmes undertaken by Mozambique had been based on an effective coordination between the Government, the donor community, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, he added. The role of the Secretary- General and the United Nations funds and specialized agencies had been important, and he hoped they would continue to play a leading role, mobilizing and coordinating international assistance.

Statements were also made by the representatives of the Solomon Islands, (on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum) Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of the Latin America and Caribbean Group of States), India, United States, Indonesia, speaking as President of the Economic and Social Council, Brazil, Portugal (on behalf of the European Union), South Africa, Canada, Sierra Leone and Nigeria (on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China.

The acting President of the Assembly, Thorsteinn Ingolfsson (Iceland), expressed the Assembly's sympathy to the Government and people of Madagascar, who were suffering as a consequence of flooding. The representative of Madagascar thanked the Assembly, speaking after adoption of the Mozambique resolution.

In other business, the Assembly noted that sanctions under Article 19 of the United Nations Charter would no longer apply to Nicaragua and the Marshall Islands.

The Council will meet again on Tuesday, 14 March, when it will consider two draft decisions on the implementation of the outcomes of the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995).

Assembly Work Programme

When the General Assembly met this morning it had before it a draft resolution entitled Assistance to Mozambique following the devastating floods (document A/54/L.79). By the text, the Assembly expresses deep concern for the country of Mozambique following the tragic loss of human life and extensive destruction of property and infrastructure caused by the recent unprecedented flooding. It also expresses deep concern about the impact of the disaster on the economic and humanitarian situation in that country. There was also grave concern that widespread destruction of crops might lead to food security problems and loss of income.

Also by the draft, the Assembly took note of the appeal to the international community by the Government of Mozambique for emergency humanitarian aid and of the need for assistance for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the areas affected by the disaster. The Assembly also took note of the appeal by the Secretary-General to the international community for aid and assistance to Mozambique. The Assembly further took note of the Security Council presidential statement on the floods in Mozambique.

Further by the draft, the Assembly urged the international community, the United Nations system, international financial institutions and non-governmental organizations to respond urgently and to provide assistance to Mozambique in its relief and rehabilitation efforts and programmes following the disaster. The Assembly requested that relevant organs and agencies of the United Nations system and other multilateral organizations to increase their support and assistance for building the disaster-preparedness capacity of Mozambique. It also requested the Secretary-General to make all the necessary arrangements to continue mobilizing and coordinating humanitarian assistance from the United Nations system with a view to supporting the efforts of the Government of Mozambique.

The Assembly also requests the Secretary-General to continue to mobililize and coordinate assistance for the required reconstruction and rehabilitation of the infrastructure in Mozambique and to meet other needs for the normalization of the life of the citizens. The Assembly encourages the holding of an international donors conference to assist Mozambique in its humanitarian relief and rehabilitation efforts.

Finally the Assembly requests the Secretary-General to report at its fifty- fifth session, under the item on strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance through the Economic and Social Council at the next humanitarian segment of its substantive session in 2000, on the collaborative efforts by the international community and United Nations agencies and on the relief, rehabilitation and reconstructive efforts of Mozambique.


The acting President of the Assembly, THORSTEINN INGOLFSSON (Iceland) extended the Assembly's sympathy to Madagascar, which was recently struck by flooding.

He then drew the Assembly's attention to letter from the Secretary-General (document A/54/730/Add.2), informing the Assembly that, subsequent to the last communication on the matter, Nicaragua had made the necessary payment to reduce its arrears to below the level that would lead to sanctions under Article 19 of the United Nations Charter. The Assembly took note of the letter.

The President also informed the Assembly that he had been advised that the Marshall Islands had also made a payment that would mean Article 19 sanctions would not apply to it. The Assembly took note of the matter.

[Article 19 sanctions deprive a country of its vote in the Assembly when the amount of its unpaid dues exceed the amount it was assessed for the previous two years, unless the Assembly decides that non-payment was for reasons beyond that State's control.]

Resolution on Mozambique

The Assembly then turned its attention to the draft resolution before it on assistance for Mozambique.

AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) introduced the draft. The principle message of the draft, he said, was to call on the United Nations, non-governmental organizations and Member States to continue their assistance to Mozambique.


JEREMIAH MANELE (Solomon Islands), speaking on behalf of the member States of the Pacific Islands Forum, said several small island developing States in his subregion had suffered from nature's wrath during the last two years. He, therefore, expressed support and solidarity with the people of Mozambique in their efforts to cope with the serious human and material consequences of the recent floods. A number of countries in his region had responded to the Secretary- General's appeal for international assistance. That funding would be used to support rescue and food distribution operations, as well as assisting communities to rebuild their lives once the floods had subsided.

He said Mozambique would continue to need concerted and international support, as it began its rehabilitation and reconstruction. The United Nations had demonstrated its comparative advantage in soliciting international attention and mobilizing a concerted and timely response to such situations. He reiterated that efficient coordination at all levels was vital for disaster preparedness and emergency response. Above all, the increasing incidence of natural disasters demanded a ready pool of resources that could be deployed and utilized immediately, thus minimizing human suffering.

YVONNE GITTENS-JOSEPH (Trinidad and Tobago), on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Group, said the current natural disaster would undoubtedly pose a major setback to the economy of Mozambique, with the additional threat of disease. The dredging of mine fields as the flood receded would also complicate the mine- clearing effort. The shifting explosives would also pose a threat to the public. The Group fully supported the appeal made by the Secretary-General and the President of Mozambique for assistance to deal with the crisis.

She said it was imperative that Member States, specialized agencies, relevant bodies of the United Nations, international financial institutions and non-governmental organizations respond urgently in providing emergency relief and aid for reconstruction efforts. While those governments who had already helped Mozambique must be commended, the enormity of the crisis demanded more urgent assistance from the international community. It was hoped that the aid provided would contribute to steering the country back on the path to economic recovery.

SATYABRATA PAL (India) said that through bilateral channels, India had sent 1 million rupees worth of medicine to Mozambique to contribute to the immediate relief efforts, and would consult with the Government of Mozambique on what more it should do. His Government deeply admired the courage and resilience the people of Mozambique had shown, and the dedication and energy with which the Government had taken up the challenge of rescue and relief. The international community, which had responded swiftly and generously in Mozambique's hour of crisis, must stay the course. The tasks of rehabilitation would be as daunting as those of immediate relief. The danger was that, as the floods recede, international attention might do so as well. All friends of Mozambique should continue to provide the support that its Government and people would need as they set about rebuilding after the disaster. India was honoured to be a co-sponsor of today's draft.

LAURIE LEARNER SHESTACK (United States) said the United States had taken urgent steps to respond to Mozambique's emergency. It was proud to be, once again, at the forefront of the emergency response effort. Since the Unites States had declared a disaster in Mozambique, over $50 million had been provided to the southern African region for flood relief.

The United States Government was moving to forgive Mozambique its official bilateral debt, she said. Assistance had also been provided to Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa and Zambia. Regarding landmines, United States experts had conducted an initial appraisal of the situation, and it appeared that it was a bit less severe than initially expected. The United States appealed to others to demonstrate generosity in meeting the challenge posed by this disaster.

MAKARIM WIBISONO (Indonesia), speaking as President of the Economic and Social Council, said the Council had a mandate to coordinate, and an important area of that coordination was coordination of assistance in response to national disasters. In its unprecedented meeting on Mozambique yesterday, called by the Council President, it was briefed by representatives of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, the World Food Programme, the United Nations Children's Fund and the United Nations Development Programme.

The Economic and Social Council's response had been positive, he said. Participation in the meeting was high, and there was unanimous agreement as to its usefulness. A statement in support of Mozambique was authorized and would be forthcoming. The Council also decided to ensure the humanitarian section of its next session would address coordination of assistance to Mozambique, thus ensuring appropriate follow-up.

GELSON FONSECA (Brazil) said his delegation had co-sponsored the draft, through the Latin American and Caribbean Group, and supported the international community's efforts to provide relief to Mozambique. The Brazilian people were following with a profound sense of solidarity the events in Mozambique. His country had organized an airlift of 10 tons of medicine to contribute to the relief efforts. It was aware, however, that efforts so far fell short of what was required for emergency relief or reconstruction. Donor countries must continue to provide assistance and mobilize the necessary funds bilaterally, and through the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and other humanitarian actors. He hoped that Mozambique, with the support of the international community, would be able to overcome in a short period of time the consequences of this catastrophic natural disaster.

ANTONIO MONTEIRO (Portugal), speaking for the European Union, said the tragic floods had interrupted Mozambique's remarkable transition from war to reconstruction, rehabilitation and development. But Mozambicans had proved their resilience before and would do so again. Their obstinate desire to preserve the rewards of peace must be supported. The Union and the European Community had provided substantial help to Mozambique from the outset of the crisis. The European Community had announced that it would increase to 150 million euros its development assistance for the year 2000. An amount of 25 million euros would be made available for emergency assistance needs. There was need for a well- coordinated effort between the Mozambican authorities and donors during the current phase of emergency relief and, subsequently, in order to make the links between emergency aid, rehabilitation and development assistance more effective and coherent. The Union and the European Community were joining efforts in order to assist in guaranteeing that the gains made over the last 10 years were not washed away by rain in two months. Mozambicans great efforts and sacrifices over the last few years must not be wasted.

DUMISANA SHADRACK KUMALO (South Africa) said the tragedy was a human disaster, but also caused economic devastation. An estimated 1 billion were homeless, and 300,000 needed urgent assistance. Crops and livestock, along with health, education and other infrastructure elements, had been completely wiped out. Member States and aid agencies had been generous in their assistance, including much appreciated assistance from other developing countries. The situation had barely improved. Rains had returned yesterday, and additional assistance was required. As a concerned neighbour, South Africa was assisting Mozambique.

However welcome assistance was, he said, the international community should consult with the Mozambique Government before dispatching assistance. Specific situations required specific responses and the Government was in the best position to tell what was needed. Disaster relief must now be combined with reconstruction assistance, as without infrastructure there could be no effective relief distribution. Real development needs would have to be addressed after the disaster relief was no longer needed. He hoped the Assembly would continue to be seized of the matter.

JOHN VON KAUFMANN (Canada) said that in addition to some $1.32 million already provided by Canada for immediate assistance, an additional $10 million in aid for flood relief and reconstruction had been recently announced. Money had also been allocated for mine action. The rapid response of United Nations agencies had demonstrated once again the United Nations key role in providing humanitarian assistance to people in need in crisis situations. Canada hoped that the draft would be adopted by consensus.

ALLIEU IBRAHIM KANU (Sierra Leone) said he had taken the floor to support the resolution. What befell Mozambique could befall any country and he was thankful to the international community for its response to the catastrophe. Mozambique was still in the first phase of dealing with the disaster, but thought must commence now about reconstruction. Mechanisms to meet the requirements of the next phase should be put in place and resources should be provided.

A paragraph calling for the forgiving of Mozambique's bilateral loans should have been included in the resolution, he said. Nonetheless, he supported the resolution. He understood that some States had already taken steps to cancel Mozambique's bilateral debt and that was a welcome initiative.

AUSTIN PETER ETANOMARE OSIO (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said the Group welcomed the assistance that had been provided to Mozambique, and also the briefings the representative of Mozambique had provided on the situation. It was a trying time for a country that was still recovering from a civil war and that had started to register modest growth -- growth that would now be set back.

There was no choice in natural disasters, he said, and few States had the capacity to deal with them on their own. Thus, the common purpose of humanity was important. The Group welcomed the efforts of the Government of Mozambique and its appeal for assistance, and was happy that the appeal had received a prompt response from the United Nations and agencies, such that international assistance was now in continuous flow. That's flow should not stop. In Member States' engagement on the issue, a commonality of purpose among the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly had been found, he noted. He called for the draft to be adopted.

As the Assembly turned to the text, the following co-sponsors were announced: Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, San Marino, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Syria, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe,

The Assembly adopted the resolution without a vote.

CARLOS DOS SANTOS (Mozambique) said that Mozambique was experiencing an unprecedented tragedy. Torrential rain and cyclones had produced severe floods in the central and southern regions of the country that had resulted in the tragic loss of human life and extensive destruction of property. Nearly 1,000 people were killed and perhaps 2 million people were in urgent need of food, shelter and clean water. The floods also had a negative socio-economic impact that included the destruction of roads, bridges and railways. There had also been extensive damage to power lines, schools, health centres and hospitals. "Too add to this gloomy picture", he said, "we witness the outbreak of water-borne diseases, particularly cholera and malaria, exposing the affected populations to another serious threat". Another area of concern was the danger of landmines that had been exposed by the floods. Those deadly weapons posed a serious threat to the population and would definitely undermine resettlement programmes, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts.

He went on to say that his Government had taken the necessary measures to address the unfolding tragedy. A nationwide campaign of solidarity with the flood

victims had been launched with the aim of collecting donations in cash, food, clothes and other essential material goods. The Government had also dispatched senior cabinet Ministers to the affected areas to assess the extent of the damages and oversee relief operations. At the operational level, the Government benefited from generous assistance from neighbouring countries, particularly South Africa, which helped to conduct the first relief operations. The Government had since launched its second international emergency appeal for $65 million.

The devastating effects of the floods were also undermining the remarkable socio-economic progress that had been achieved in Mozambique during the last five years, he continued. A pragmatic and comprehensive approach was necessary to address the effects of the disaster. Such an approach should include emergency rescue operations and identification of basic needs, stabilization of the conditions of rescued populations and recovery and long-term reconstruction.

In its efforts to deal with the effects of the flood, the Government of Mozambique had benefited from the generous assistance of the international community, he continued. That assistance had brought much needed help to those who had lost almost all their belongings and were now facing serious nutritional, hygiene and health problems. In order to bring about sustainable development, speedy recovery and normalization of the lives of the affected people, humanitarian assistance efforts needed to be combined with medium- and long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. That would only be possible with adequate, timely and steady assistance from the international community. The draft resolution before the Assembly today sought to provide the appropriate framework for immediate medium- and long-term action in support of the efforts of the Mozambican Government. It was important to note that the emergency relief programmes undertaken by Mozambique had been based on an effective coordination among the Government, the donor community, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations.

Finally, he commended the important role played by the Secretary-General and the United Nations through its funds and specialized agencies, particularly the World Food Programme, the United Nations Development Programme and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance. He went on to encourage the United Nations system to continue to play a leading role in the mobilization and coordination of international assistance to Mozambique, particularly in preparing and organizing the international donors conference.

JEAN DELACROIX BAKONIARIVO (Madagascar) thanked the Assembly for its expressions of sympathy for his country, which was currently being tested by a natural disaster. He said Madagascar supported the draft resolution on assistance to Mozambique.

Mr. OSIO (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, said he wished the record to reflect that in its deliberations on the draft an additional paragraph should have been inserted following the last preambular paragraph. That would read, "Taking note further of the Economic and Social Council presidential statement on the floods in Mozambique".