Since the first week of February, when devastating floods transformed the city of Maputo into an island, those living in the low-lying slums of the watery Mozambican capital have been unable to get back to their houses. More than 10,000 homeless people are still scattered in nine accommodation centers, sometimes only a few yards away from what remains of their homes.
Some people are living in abandoned warehouses or taking shelter under corrugated iron sheets set up on high ground. Olinda Pedro, a 54-year-old mother, lost her home in the disaster. The walls crumbled down around her when the floods came. With water up to her chest, she was unable to get out and had to be rescued by a neighbor. "I have nothing left and nowhere to go," she said. "I just don't know what my future will be."
Several neighborhoods have been under water for more than a month and some are still being hit by flash floods. While there have been breaks in the weather, the rains continue and each time there is a heavy downpour, the consequences are devastating.
Strong torrents run through the small, muddy alleys, invading each household and leaving filthy rubbish in their wake. Broken sewage pipes and latrines seep into the floodwaters, raising the risk of cholera.
Following up on the Mozambican health authorities and World Health Organization reports from last week of more than 1,000 cases of diarrhoeal disease feared to be cholera, there appear to be no actual outbreaks, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. However, given the hazardous water and sanitation situation in many areas, stringent monitoring will be carried out, the relief agency said.
The efforts of the Red Cross have helped to prevent a cholera outbreak and volunteers from the Mozambique Red Cross (MCR) have been taking a health education campaign straight to the people. Natalie Simoes, 16, is part of one team of volunteers teaching people how to chlorinate water with chlorine tablets. "In some areas we have been to, the health situation has improved and people do follow our advice. Yes, we are making a difference," she said.
In the accommodation centers, MCR is providing first aid and medication to those that need it, as well as food, blankets, mosquito nets, and kitchen equipment. Again, the danger of cholera and other waterborne diseases looms. There are flies everywhere, spreading germs from the latrines to the food the people eat.
To reinforce cholera education, a theater group made up of Red Cross volunteers tours the Maputo centers giving daily performances on preventing waterborne diseases. While the topic is grave, the performance is funny and keeps the audience laughing. According to volunteer Sergio Gajanjote, humor is the only way to get the message across.
"The victims are sometimes very depressed and lost in their thoughts, so if we want to raise their attention, we ought to be comical once in a while," he said. But the volunteers also want to be sure they are getting the message about prevention across to the audience, composed mostly of mothers with their children. At the end of the show, the actors ask the group questions about disease deterrence to make sure the ideas behind the performance were understood.
American Red Cross Teams with MRC to Provide Relief
The American Red Cross is working closely with MRC, as well as other non-government agencies, to help the flood victims. An American Red Cross disaster response team, deployed last week, has been helping to determine the most efficient way to provide assistance and distribute relief supplies. The Red Cross has so far distributed more than 40 metric tons of supplies, including food, tents, kitchen utensils, and clean water.
But the needs are ongoing and the American Red Cross will send an emergency relief flight to Mozambique this week with more than $300,000 worth of additional relief supplies.
The flight will carry tents, water containers, and clean-up kits, including cleanser, bleach, buckets, sponges, scrub brushes, and rubber gloves, for distribution among some of the hardest hit by the torrential rains and floods in Mozambique. A $350,000 donation by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation helped pay for the emergency shipment.
"The situation caused by the heavy rains and flash flooding is desperate. People have lost everything they own to rising waters and the swift currents of flash floods," said Dr. John Clizbe, American Red Cross vice president of Disaster Services. "The Red Cross is providing essential and vital relief to the millions of people affected and will continue to do so through a long recovery period," he said.
How You Can Help
To help the victims of international disasters, you may make a secure online credit card donation with the American Red Cross International Response Fund. Money from the International Response Fund is given to countries most in need of assistance. You can also contribute directly to the Mozambique relief effort by calling 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. To earmark your check for this disaster, write Mozambique in the memo section.
All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. To help the victims of Mozambique, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013.
The American Red Cross is dedicated to helping make families and communities safer at home and around the world. The Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organization that annually provides almost half the nation's blood supply, trains nearly 12 million people in vital life-saving skills, mobilizes relief to victims in more than 60,000 disasters nationwide, provides direct health services to 2.5 million people, assists international disaster and conflict victims in more than 20 countries, and transmits more than 1.4 million emergency messages to members of the Armed Forces and their families. If you would like information on Red Cross services and programs please contact your local Red Cross.
=A9 Copyright 2000, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.
- American Red Cross
- All American Red Cross disaster assistance is provided at no cost, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. The Red Cross also supplies nearly half of the nation's lifesaving blood. This, too, is made possible by generous voluntary donations. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. To donate blood, please call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE (1-800-448-3543), or contact your local Red Cross to find out about upcoming blood drives. © Copyright, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.