Territorial leaders visit flood-stricken Mozambique

Colonels Israel L. and Eva D. Gaither (Territorial Commander and Territorial President of Women's Organisations respectively), along with Captains Len Millar (Public Relations Secretary) and Douglas Thomas (Projects and Development Officer), have just returned from Maputo, Mozambique, where they have seen at first hand the relief work being undertaken by The Salvation Army. Captain Thomas had previously visited Maputo at the end of February to distribute food, conduct a needs assessment and develop a strategic plan, and has been responsible for coordinating relief efforts from territorial headquarters.
The flood waters in and around Maputo are receding and the extent of the damage and destruction is only now being fully seen. Complete communities are still under water and many roads remain waterlogged. Where the water has subsided, the roads are now seen to have been either totally washed away or left with potholes between one and two metres deep.

Following a detailed briefing by Majors Robert and Judy Holley (regional leaders), the visiting party went to two of the camps/communities where The Salvation Army has taken responsibility for meeting the needs of the people who have been affected by the flooding. Poor drainage has created problems throughout the country, including the contamination of drinking water and the total closure of the road system north of Xai Xai. The regional commander has received reports of damage to Salvation Army property in some places. There are still other places from which no news has been received.

At present The Salvation Army is officially responsible for five areas in and around Maputo - Zona Verde, Circlode, Inhagoia, Chamuculo and Catembe. In addition The Salvation Army is assisting with feeding programmes from local corps buildings.

Throughout the visit the territorial leaders were impressed with the resilience of the people of Mozambique and the way in which local leaders were willing to work together to overcome this catastrophe. The Salvation Army needs to be strategic with its resources and to acknowledge and empower local leadership.

A long-term strategy for distribution is vital, including stock control, secure storage facilities and accurate record keeping. The search and rescue portion of the mission is almost over, but the relief phase must be implemented. A minimum of three to six months, and possibly 12 months, will be required to assist with the rebuilding and relocation of the people currently being assisted by The Salvation Army.

One of the visits made by the leaders was to Zona Verde. This is where The Salvation Army is caring for 133 families (533 people) lodged in a disused and derelict building originally built as a bakery. The Salvation Army is the only organisation to respond to this community. The Army continues to provide food, clothing and a link with the rest of the country. On arrival an impromptu meeting was held, and eight water purification units were presented.

The homes of this working-class community were made of cinder blocks and concrete, but then the rains came. A tidal wave of water descended upon them and their houses and all belongings were completely washed away. What is left is a deep gully some two metres deep and 60 to 80 metres wide, stretching some 400 metres in length.

Colonel Gaither was able to speak to the headman and to assure him that The Salvation Army would continue to offer practical support and assist in every way possible. He offered words of encouragement to the families present and clearly indicated that the Army was representing God in providing assistance to them. His concluding words were, 'God is with you, we are with you, so don't give up.' Following the meeting, a visit was made to view the area where the homes had been located.

Information had been received concerning another community which was also in desperate need of assistance. After a 25 minutes drive, the party arrived in Circlode. There they found a community of 72 families (322 people) living in only six tents. No further assistance had been forthcoming and The Salvation Army again came to the rescue of these people. Food and support continue to be given.

An effort was also made to visit the third feeding centre run by The Salvation Army out of the Matola Corps. Unfortunately after a two-hour drive the convoy got stuck on one of the many impassable potholed roads, and had to retrace its steps before returning to the Maputo International Airport for the flight to Johannesburg, South Africa.

Mozambique continues to need financial support. Plans have been made for specialised emergency disaster personnel to travel to Mozambique to support the current work, to evaluate and implement longer term programmes and to network with
government and other agencies.

Mozambique has been set back some 10 to 15 years in economic productivity. The people are resilient and positive, but need our continued help. Money, food, clothing, bedding, medicine and cooking utensils are being transported from Johannesburg to relieve the short-term needs, and two teams of relief workers are on standby for immediate response once an overall strategy has been formalised.

AUTHOR: Captain Len Millar

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