Floods Devastate Mozambique
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RAY SUAREZ: For more, we go to Marcos Namashulua, Mozambique’s ambassador to the United States; and Brady Anderson, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, which is taking a role in the rescue and relief efforts in Mozambique.
Ambassador Namashulua, let’s start with the latest news from your country. Maybe you can explain just the extent of the devastation. How many killed, how many homeless?
MARCOS NAMASHULUA, Ambassador, Mozambique: Well, as far as information goes, we are talking about two million people have been affected by this flood. Out of this two million, we are talking about 900,000 people that need immediate help. And 300,000 of these numbers, they have lost totally their belongings. So that’s the extent. And according to the recorded deaths, we are talking about 200 deaths. Of course we know that many more people that are not accounted for, many deaths are not accounted for.
RAY SUAREZ: Has the size of the response been timely, and are you getting the help you need now?
MARCOS NAMASHULUA: Well, timely, up to a certain point. It has been very slow. Because the international community had been warned about what is going on in Mozambique, but we are glad that as more images of the disaster is shown on American TVs, the Americans have been very prompt in their response. So we are glad on that. But of course they have been a little bit slow, and they could have done much more than has been so far.
RAY SUAREZ: Has the help that’s been coming in been able to be steered to where it’s needed in short order? Sometimes when there’s big tragedies like this, aid ends up piling up in ports or airports. Is it getting to where it needs to go right away?
MARCOS NAMASHULUA: As much as possible, the help is going where the help is needed. But sometimes there’s a lack of transportation to go to those areas where the people are needed. Especially as you know that according to the images seen on TV, many people are still stranded in those areas — spending days and days on trees and on the rooftops of some buildings. So help to reach those will be very difficult unless sometimes we increase the number of, say helicopters to reach those people.
RAY SUAREZ: Ambassador Anderson, maybe you can describe the American response.
BRADY ANDERSON, Administrator, U.S. AID Agency: Yes, Ray. We sent a team out there February 7th, when this sort of all began. And as there have been more floods that have come down the rivers — as you know, the rains were both in Mozambique and in Zimbabwe and South Africa. And as the floodwaters have risen, we have over the last three weeks, we’ve increased our support. We sent cash of about $600,000 the first two weeks of February to Save the Children and to Medecins San Frontieres, the two nonprofit agencies operating there. Since that time, as I say, as the rivers have increased and flown over their banks, we have sent more money there.
RAY SUAREZ: One of the shortages that’s being reported from the area is of helicopters. And while helping get medicine and food is great — those people clinging to trees need helicopters. How do you get a helicopter to the other side of the world when one is needed?
BRADY ANDERSON: It’s a long way from the United States. The president just a few moments ago announced that he had approved the deployment of a joint task force that will include six C-130 support aircraft to deliver relief supplies and six heavy lift helicopters to assist in search and rescue and a small-boat search and rescue team. There will be more choppers out there from the U.S. Also USAID has sent the Miami Dade County fire rescue squad water rescue team, a team of 14 men and women from Miami Dade County, Florida who have three of these rubberized zodiac boats. And they will be leaving tomorrow.
RAY SUAREZ: You are an old hand in that part of Africa, especially. Maybe could you talk a little bit about what makes rescue work difficult in a place like Mozambique.
BRADY ANDERSON: The infrastructure is very simple as compared to what we would have in the U.S. Bridges and roads are in not very good shape anyway. And after rains and cyclones have hit the country and have been so devastating, then those gets washed out and going from point A to point B, you have got to be in a boat or in a helicopter.
RAY SUAREZ: Ambassador, when the waters finally begin to recede, and the rain is stopped for certain, what will your countrymen and women have to do first? It seems from those pictures, like there’s almost nothing left for many of them to return to.
MARCOS NAMASHULUA: It is a big responsibility that the government of Mozambique has first to resettle those people, and to make them start a new life. It is not going to be an easy one, but we are very strong people that we can overcome all these problems but not without help from outside.
We have also to build, to rebuild our country, especially in those areas that have been devastated by this crisis. And we’re talking about the rebuilding of the infrastructure; we’re talking about building new schools, new hospitals, clinics and roads and many other things that are needed to be done. So we have a long way to go ahead. That has already affected our economic development programs. As you know, in the past few years we have been doing relatively well. But with this disaster, it has been a big setback.
RAY SUAREZ: We saw people being rescued there and dropped on to a patch of grass with nothing, no tools. Their cattle is dead, their houses are destroyed. Where do you start with someone who is a farmer and suddenly has no land? Where do they go?
MARCOS NAMASHULUA: Well, there is nowhere they can go except in those areas where they can be resettled, where the government will indicate where they can create the necessary conditions for them to start a new life. As I say, it is not going to be easy for most of them, but that is the way to go at this time.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, Ambassador Anderson, are you on the phone with the Brady Anderson of Germany or the Brady Anderson of France? Who are the countries that are helping Mozambique talking to each other about where to go from here?
BRADY ANDERSON: We are. We’re in contact with the British. Their contribution so far has been in the range of several million pounds. And the Swedes are involved, the Portuguese, as the former colonial master of Mozambique, they’re also involved. And we will continue to be there. And we will continue to cooperate. You ask where do the seeds come from and how do they get their land? We have already got a plan, beginning that reconstruction plan. We’re focusing now, Ray, on saving people’s lives and getting the zodiac boats there and the Department of Defense getting their assets there as quickly as possible to save lives but reconstruction is going to begin very soon.
RAY SUAREZ: And, Mr. Ambassador, I have read in some reports that there may be a new weather system coming toward your country. You may not be finished with this yet.
MARCOS NAMASHULUA: Yes, we are not yet finished. And according to information, we feel that there is a new cyclone coming, I think they call it Felicia. I don’t know where the name comes from. But anyway, there is a cyclone coming which will be affecting not only those areas that now have been affected, but will be including maybe other provinces as well, including the — province, and Manica — and other provinces as well — including — in addition to that, we are predicting some more rain in the area.
RAY SUAREZ: So how long do you think it may be before you really understand the full extent of the damage done to your country?
MARCOS NAMASHULUA: It is very difficult at this time to predict. We have not the means to predict how long that will take, so we just wait and see. But we have no means to do so.
RAY SUAREZ: Ambassador Anderson, has AID got the resources to stay there for as long as they’re needed?
BRADY ANDERSON: We do, we certainly do, Ray. We’ve been in Mozambique for some years helping them with their political and economic transformation. By the way, which I would say ambassador, congratulations because it has been marvelous — 11 percent growth rate, the highest growth rate in the world last year in their economy. And they’ve had two very free and fair democratic elections, successive elections, so they have done well and it’s just so sad to see this terrible tragedy occur. But we’re it committed; we will be there with them.
RAY SUAREZ: Ambassadors, thank you very much both.