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MCC responds to flooding in Mozambique

Marla Pierson Lester
January 25, 2008

AKRON, Pa. – Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is purchasing plastic sheeting and other items to help shelter families in Mozambique whose homes have been destroyed by heavy flooding. MCC is also preparing to ship relief kits, health kits and blankets to Mozambique.

Heavy rains and flooding have struck throughout the region. Rainfall upstream in countries such as Zimbabwe and Zambia, as well as in Mozambique, has caused several of Mozambique’s major rivers, including the Zambezi, to overflow their banks, forcing tens of thousands of people to leave their homes.

Mozambique is prone to cycles of drought and flooding, but this round of flooding is particularly severe, said Bruce Campell-Janz, co-director of MCC’s programs in Africa.

And damage is striking earlier in the rainy season than usual, he noted. MCC responses to previous flooding have most often come in March, not January.

“To have communities affected this early is unusual,” he said.

By late December, the government had started to move people to higher ground, an unsettling sign of how severe the flooding is but also an indication the government is working proactively to respond. Campbell-Janz noted the nation has expanded its disaster response system significantly in the last several years.

But the situation remains difficult for families forced from their homes. Along the lower Zambezi river, estimates are that some 230,000 people have been affected by flooding, including some 70,000 who fled from their homes.

The most urgent need now is shelter, particularly with two to three months left in the rainy season, according to MCC staff in Mozambique.

MCC is working with the Christian Council of Mozambique, a long-time MCC partner organization, to provide plastic sheeting and wood poles that can be used for temporary shelters.

In addition, MCC’s initial $50,000 response to the flooding includes blankets; machetes and hoes for home construction and later for working fields; plates, pots and eating utensils; buckets for water; water purification equipment; and latrine tops.

It also covers the costs of sending two shipping containers, containing some $200,000 of MCC relief supplies, to Mozambique in coming weeks. The shipment will contain several thousand relief kits, health kits and blankets, as well as other items such as canned turkey.

MCC in recent years has funded responses to both flooding and drought in Mozambique, including a $1 million response to major flooding in 2000.

Campbell-Janz said he has noticed that the cycles of flooding and drought in Southern Africa, where he oversees MCC programs, seem to be happening closer together. He finds the current flooding a disquieting symptom of how weather patterns and climate change can affect Africa.

The cost to humanity, he warns, could be tremendous in countries that have few resources to fall back on. “You’ve got people that are among the most vulnerable in the world that are on the front lines of climate change,” he said.

MCC is accepting financial contributions for flood response in Mozambique. Contributions should be designated "Southern Africa Flood.” MCC is continuing to monitor the situation in Mozambique and neighboring countries.