Mozambique churches launch emergency aid effort

Churches in flood-ravaged Mozambique have launched emergency aid programmes to care for people made homeless by the devastating torrential rains and tropical cyclone which have hit the country in recent weeks.
Church members in the capital Maputo, many of whom have suffered greatly themselves, have been donating clothing to destitute families. Some with houses intact have been offering accommodation to people who have lost everything in the floods. Christian relief and development agency Tearfund is supporting with an emergency =A39000 grant aid efforts by the Association of Evangelicals of Mozambique (AEM), who are working in some of the worst-affected provinces in the south of the country.

"The suffering of people in Mozambique is very bad," said pastor David Zimba, General Secretary of AEM, speaking from Maputo. "People are living in churches and schools because their homes have been washed away. Never in my 50 years have I seen anything like this."

AEM is liaising with the Mozambique government, the United Nations and International Red Cross over the distribution of food, medicines, seeds, clothing and roofing materials to homeless villagers. On Friday (February 25th) Tearfund relief worker Duncan MacPherson flew to Mozambique from the UK to advise churches as they seek to distribute maize, dried fish, sugar and other goods to homeless villagers.

Of the church response, pastor Zimba said: "During 17 years of civil war we were used to receiving help from others. Now we have an opportunity to give to others who are suffering. The churches are responding very well to the crisis."

Pastor Zimba added: "There is no hope for the harvest and even a fire is hard to build because all the wood is so wet. As a country Mozambique's economy was doing so well until this happened. I cannot imagine what will happen now."

Meanwhile, Tearfund, which has also made an emergency grant of =A35000 to partners in Botswana for flood relief, added its voice to growing calls from within the Jubilee 2000 Coalition for the suspension and ultimate cancellation of Mozambique's international debts.

Mozambique currently pays out around =A3765,000 per week in debt service to the international community - an equivalent amount to that which the British government has so far given in aid to the stricken country following the floods.

"We hope and pray that the people with the power to make decisions will immediately suspend all debt payments from Mozambique, so that the money can be used where it is most needed, in the relief and reconstruction of a devastated nation," stated Stephen Rand, Tearfund's Prayer & Campaigns Director.

He continued: "This should be followed by an urgent process to cancel Mozambique's debt as soon as possible. A country recovering from war, and now devastated by floods, needs even more urgently to be set free from the chains of debt."
Ends Keith Ewing, Senior Media Officer, 0208 977 6061 (office); 07669 0275523 (pager).