Mozambique: Civilian-military cooperation

JOHANNESBURG, 8 March (IRIN) - Soldiers and aid workers do not at first seem natural bedfellows. But in Mozambique, as the international community finally stirs itself to the scale of the country's flood disaster, coordination between the military and humanitarian sector has been surprisingly smooth, sources told IRIN.
Mozambique's skies are increasingly full of helicopters evacuating still stranded people and delivering supplies. There are daily arrivals of more military contingents, relief items, and aid officials. Maputo airport is reportedly struggling to cope with a five-fold increase in takeoffs and landings. "It's true in the beginning there was some difficulty to coordinate the assistance, but everyday we are becoming more experienced," Antonio Masheve, spokesman of the government's Instituto Nacional de Gestao das Calamidades (INGC), told IRIN.

"I think it's evolving much better than people thought, considering the volume of equipment arriving," a senior aid worker said. "There was a lot of anxiety at the beginning that the military wouldn't understand the civilian way of working, but we've been quite lucky."

The need for civil-military partnership in complex emergencies is increasingly recognised. Some of the troops arriving in Mozambique have been on training courses run by the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). "That has made it very easy when we asked them to be part of the operation," a UN official told IRIN.

Apart from the helicopters and crews the humanitarian effort has relied on to find, feed and rescue civilians trapped by flood waters, the military have also been able to provide equipment and skills lacking in the relief operation.

The US military arrived on Tuesday with infra-red cameras capable of detecting road and rail breaks and even stranded people. "I can't see how it's too hi-tech. The main priorities now is to take stock of the overall picture," the UN official said. "The Americans have been less communicative, but that's their way," one aid worker commented. There are military
personnel from at least 11 countries in Mozambique.

The logistics and coordination centre that controls the day-to-day humanitarian operation is run by WFP. Aid agencies and NGOs put in their requests to the unit, which meets twice a day to decide "who carries what to where". "Tasking is by the humanitarian side, and the military do what they are told," the UN source said. A daily coordination meeting is chaired by Mozambican Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao.

The Mozambican army, only 4,000 to 5,000-strong, has also been increasingly active. "At the beginning they had no means to intervene, now they are working closely with the foreign soldiers," Masheve said. In Chokwe, in the southern province of Gaza, Mozambican troops are guarding a key warehouse, aid sources said.


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