Maria Minna Minister for International Cooperation at a Press Conference on Assistance to Flood Victims in Mozambique

I appreciate this opportunity to provide you with an update on Canada's assistance to flood victims in Mozambique and neighbouring countries. It is estimated that approximately one million people have been affected by the floods, and some 500,000 people require immediate assistance.

You should know that throughout this crisis, we have been carefully monitoring the situation around the clock - receiving updates from CIDA personnel that are on the ground.

The Canadian International Development Agency has provided $1.6 million in emergency assistance to date. Our initial contributions are being used right now to provide blankets, food, and emergency shelter for those in need. Last week, I announced further funding to meet the urgent and specific need for emergency airlifting of flood victims by helicopter. Through these efforts, we provided funds for approximately 200 hours of flight time.

In response to new requests and needs on the ground, Canada and CIDA are now taking further steps. I am announcing today an additional $10 million to expand our relief efforts in Mozambique and start the important process of reconstruction.

Additional assistance

In the next few days, we will be sending new emergency supplies to Mozambique, using two Canadian Forces flights. Materials are being assembled for transport as we speak, including chlorine, water bladders and water pumps for water purification, jerry-cans, soap, picks and shovels, gloves, rope, plastic sheeting and blankets.

Our assistance will be channelled in part through agencies such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the World Food Programme. For instance, our contribution to the World Food Programme will be used to purchase fuel for transport planes carrying rations to disaster areas.

As well, we expect to support additional efforts by Canadian non-governmental organizations active in southern Africa. I want to take a moment to highlight the extraordinary work that Canadians and Canadian organizations are already doing on-site. Partners such as Oxfam-Canada, Canadian Lutheran World Relief, World Vision Canada, CARE Canada, the Canadian Red Cross and others have already been providing much needed relief.

I also want to thank the many Canadians who are providing generous financial assistance to these organizations, and I encourage others to do the same. Canadians have been living up to their reputation as caring global citizens and have shown great concern for the victims of the floods and cyclone. Now that emergency rescue efforts are largely completed, we can focus on ensuring that people have adequate food, clean water, medicine and shelter to begin rebuilding their lives.

Current programming including landmines and debt relief

As we turn our attention to reconstruction efforts, and as flood victims start returning to their homes, it will be crucial to ensure people's safety. I'm referring here to the danger posed by landmines. As you may know, more than three decades of war have left Mozambique strewn with between one and two million mines.

Chances are the flooding has uprooted and moved landmines in the region. Areas previously thought to be secure will need to be treated with extreme caution. This will apply both to the return of displaced people and to the reconstruction of essential infrastructure.

CIDA's current programming in demining and mine awareness can be adapted to the new situation, just as we did in similar circumstances after Hurricane Mitch, in Central America. Our landmines program in Mozambique is CIDA's biggest. This is a comprehensive program - from surveying and mapping to assistance for victims, mine awareness, and actual demining. The surveying and mapping components of our program will certainly help Mozambique identify minefield locations following this crisis.

In fact, three members of the Canadian Forces were already in Mozambique when the flooding began, working on surveying and mapping activities. They are currently helping the country assess the damage caused by the floods.

On the issue of debt relief, Mozambique's President, Joaquim Chissano, has asked the world to write off his nation's crippling external debt. I am glad to say that Mozambique does not owe any money to Canada. However, Canada did contribute, in 1998, some $8 million to a World Bank Trust Fund so that Mozambique would receive the debt reduction it was entitled to under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative.

Today's announcement reflects Canada's commitment towards Mozambique. Canada has been providing development assistance to Mozambique since the country's independence in 1975. We will continue to support the people of Mozambique through this crisis in the days ahead, and also in further developing their country in the years to come.