Mozambique: Interview with Rowland Roome, CARE Country Director in Mozambique

Originally published
Can you describe the current situation in Mozambique?
"Right now, we are all in a very fast moving and reactive emergency phase. As you've seen on television reports, people are still waiting to be rescued from rooftops and trees. By using the global positioning system, CARE has been able to help locate and map the areas filled with stranded people. Government personnel in helicopters use the maps to more efficiently locate and rescue people. Once rescued, people are being dropped off at various emergency centers that are managed by aid agencies like CARE, where they are provided with food, water, clothing and shelter."

What is CARE's objective?

"Even though we are in an emergency phase, now is the time to start planning rehabilitation efforts. Many of these cyclone and flood victims were refugees during Mozambique's civil war and naturally, they don't want to stay in these camp-like environments for an extended time. The real long-term effort will be to resettle these families who have lost their homes. Pretty much all the water wells are contaminated. Crops have been destroyed. There needs to be a whole range of rehabilitation efforts. CARE will draw on its existing water and agriculture programs to repair water systems. We will provide seeds, tools and technical knowledge to help farmers plant corn, beans and rice. Also, as soon as the flooding goes down CARE will help farmers plant crops like vegetables and sweet potatoes that can be harvested within 90 days. We also have begun working with local municipalities, through a cash-for-work program, to mobilize communities to dig out thousands of tons of silt from pre-existing drainage systems in the city of Maputo. This is just the beginning."

It there a threat of disease?

"There's a definite threat. When people drink contaminated water they are susceptible to diarrhea and other stomach illnesses. CARE is providing chlorine tablets to purify water and has begun repairing water systems. Also, as the flooding recedes, mosquitoes will come out in full force so there will be a threat of malaria. That's why it's all the more important to get the water systems repaired so people will have clean water to drink if they get sick."

Is there a threat of another cyclone hitting Mozambique?

"We are all holding our breath and tracking the path of Cyclone Gloria. It looks like it might hit southern Mozambique or Zimbabwe on Monday or Tuesday. If it hits, we face two situations" If it hits Mozambique directly, it would be a knockout blow to most of the already affected areas. If it hits Zimbabwe, they will be forced to open their dams to protect their own country from flooding. The dam waters probably would then run down river into Mozambique and cause another surge. Either way, we will have to double our efforts. More CARE staff and supplies are on the way."

How long will it take for Mozambique to recover?

"It depends on the goodwill of the international community for funding and a coordinated effort among the government and the 250 NGOs working in the country. We are holding meetings and have begun planning. On a positive note, in the past, Mozambique suffered from serious droughts and crop production was low but I can say that in my experience, I've seen flooded areas produce a bumper harvest the following year that have generated steep recoveries. I hope Mozambique will produce the same results."