• Updated: Tuesday, February 29, 2000

  • Disaster hits Mozambique










    Frei Ilídio Jacinto and Frei Lage Nhampoca
    write from Mozambique

    Mozambican society faces a calamity not seen for the last 50 years. The month of February has been characterized by torrential and long-lasting rains and consequently by floods, especially in the central and southern regions of the country which have many rivers. At the beginning of February something alarming occurred when the Institute of Natural Calamities and the Regional Water Administration announced the increase of the water-levels for the next thirty days or so. This situation lead to widespread flooding.

    The Provinces of Maputo, Gaza, Inhambane, Sofala and Manica are living through the drama of heavy flooding. In all of these Provinces the friars live and work. This tragedy has caused hundreds of human casualties. Thousands of people have been displaced. Some 800,000 people are now in danger of contracting serious diseases such as malaria, cholera, diorrhea, typhoid and many other diseases related to water pollution. The heavy rains and flood waters have also destroyed houses, agriculture and cattle. Government statistics indicate that millions of dollars are needed to rebuild many of the countries infrastructures such as roads, bridges, schools and industries.

    At the moment, the Province of Maputo is isolated from the rest of the country due to the destruction of a key bridge. The city of Xai Xai is split in two due to the flooding and the Province of Inhambane is unable to communicate with the northern regions.

    Along with the general population, the friars have been deeply affected by this calamity. Besides having to come to the help of the many poor people among whom they live and work, they have also had to abandon their friary in the city of Xai Xai because of the flooding. In the townships of Maputo, where some of the friars work, the scene is one of desolation: many houses are flooded, some even submerged, schools have been closed and one sees people desperately trying to recover their few possessions. Some of the chapels built by the local Christian communities in these townships have also been badly damaged.

    This year many friars were unable to attend the annual assembly of the Custody due to the flooding. Those who did manage to get there before the disaster hit the region where the assembly was being held were subsequently blocked there and eventually had to spend a lot of money hiring air transport to get out. This has placed a further financial strain on the Custody.

    It is still very difficult to evaluate the full impact of this crisis on the country. Through the media, however, one sees that it is the degree of human suffering caused which is the most alarming element.

    In the last years, Mozambique has experienced some economic growth but the hope which this generated has now been destroyed. The situation has been further complicated by a cyclone which hit the country a few days later.

    The Government, the International Community and various NGOs have taken some important steps to help resolve the crisis. The friars too are making every effort to organize and mobilize help for the victims of this calamity. They are distributing food, clothing and medicine donated by various parishes under their direction.

    Further danger looms for the country because the meteorological reports state that in the coming days a worse nightmare than the one that is being experienced will hit the Provinces of Gaza and Maputo due to the heavy amount of water coming from the neighbouring Republic of South Africa. After this impending catastrophe, a long period of drought is expected. All this overshadows the hope there was of rebuilding the country after 16 years of civil war.

    - NEWS



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