Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Looking Back - Appeal For Mozambique Flood Victims

On this day in 2000, International aid agencies in Mozambique said they needed extra helicopters to rescue thousands stranded in floods.
Floodwater in southern Mozambique continued to rise engulfing everything in its path.
The United Nations World Food Programme estimated up to 300,000 people needed immediate aid.
"We need more helicopters, we need more humanitarian aid. What we have now is not enough. If this humanitarian aid is not increased, hundreds of thousands of people may die," said Christiane Berthiaume, spokesperson for the WFP.
Correspondents say the coastal town of Xai Xai had almost disappeared, and the exodus from the town of Chokwe - which was engulfed in floods over the weekend - was continuing unabated.
Relief agencies were trying to set up clean-water stations and shelter, but the sheer number of people was overwhelming.
Panic among those fleeing the rising waters has separated children from their parents, and relief agencies were having to set up programmes to try to reunite families.
At one camp in the south for people who had lost their homes, the number of people rose from 2,000 to 15,000 in less than 48 hours.
More helicopters and light aircraft were deployed in Mozambique, with missions flying out of the capital, Maputo, moving up a gear.
But the BBC's Greg Barrow, reporting from Mozambique, says helicopter pilots flying over the flood plain were being forced to make stark choices about whom to save.
Those trapped in the water come first, while anybody who had managed to clamber to safety in trees or on the roofs of houses were considered relatively safe.
The United Nations said donor governments have pledged $13.5m to UN agencies responding to the floods.
But after a meeting in Geneva, a UN spokesman said only about $4.5m had so far been received.
The following day came news of a baby born in a tree above rising flood waters.
Sofia Pedro was filmed being rescued by a South African military helicopter minutes after giving birth to baby Rositha. The resulting media coverage galvanised governments around the world into action and aid came pouring in.
The floods - the worst in living memory - lasted three weeks and killed some 700 people and displaced half a million more.
In May, international donors meeting in Rome promised Mozambique nearly $453m to help rebuild the economy and infrastructure - $3m more than the Mozambique Government had requested.
The country was hit by more flooding in 2001, and in 2002 a severe drought hit many central and southern parts of the country, including previously flood-stricken areas.