By Mark Lang
First the floods came, then the cholera but neither have stopped the local church saving lives in Mozambique.
Heavy rains in January left a huge swathe of the country under several feet of water, killing 158 people and affecting 160,000 others, with 50,000 being made homeless.
But training by Tearfund partner Codesa to make local churches more outward-looking and focused on people’s physical needs as well as their spiritual ones, has proved invaluable in limiting the suffering of survivors.
In the district of Gurue, which was one of the worst affected areas, apart from plastic sheets there was little outside support for the flood-hit residents. But the church played a decisive role helping nearly 1,000 people with:
5,035 kgs of maize meal
2,865 items of clothing
255 kgs of salt
250 kgs of rice
142 kgs of sugar
Earnest Maswera, Tearfund’s Country Representative for Mozambique, said, ‘The losses due to the floods were huge but the local church took the initiative to support its communities.’
Besides aid in the immediate aftermath, churches are continuing to assist communities through the recovery phase, helping people restore their livelihoods through fisheries, gardening and poultry projects.
Tearfund training to help pastors use their collective voice to improve lives in the communities they serve has also been fruitful, with a successful bid for £16,000 from government towards development initiatives led by the church.
The floods have left another challenge. Cholera which has caused more than 50 deaths and 7,000 cases across five provinces of Mozambique.
In Gurue, people weren’t very receptive to official advice about stopping the spread of the disease and using chlorine for water purification.
Ministry of Health worker Jose Antonio Lisboa is president of the pastors forum in Gurue District, and used his links at the ministry to get church volunteers trained in cholera prevention.
As a result, health messages and preventative advice from the church were readily accepted by locals and so far there have been only three deaths out of 178 cases in Gurue.
‘The church’s role averted a huge loss of life,’ said Earnest. ‘In previous years many more lives would have been lost.’