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Mozambique struggles under flooding, cyclone

Natural disasters have plagued Mozambique since January, including a Feb. 22 cyclone with 270 kph winds that destroyed the municipal market in Vilanculos. A UMNS Web-only photo courtesy of the Mozambique Annual Conference.

A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*
March 1, 2007

Bishop Joao Somane Machado

“We think God is testing our stillness,” said United Methodist Bishop Joao Somane Machado in response to continued flooding and a cyclone that have plagued Mozambique since January.

“We are aware that it is God who created everything including our country. We are going to persevere on Him and stand still,” Machado said.

Heavy rains and severe flooding from the Zambezi River have deluged the northern section of Mozambique, and a Feb. 22 cyclone with 270kph winds assaulted the country’s southern region, worsening existing humanitarian problems. The flooding also has impacted the African country’s central region.

According to news reports and officials of The United Methodist Church of Mozambique, at least 45 people have died and more than 250,000 are displaced by the severe weather. More rain is forecast as many of the homeless have sought higher ground and are living in camps and shelters made of grass and twigs. Hunger and a lack of sanitation are issues as many survivors struggle with malaria and cholera.

During this rainy season, which does not end until late March, needs are acute as the majority of displaced families also have lost maize and corn harvests.

Torrential rains began in December and have swamped a swath of southern Africa from Angola on the Atlantic Ocean in the west to Mozambique along the Indian Ocean. The National Institute for Disaster Management estimates continued flooding eventually could displace more than 500,000 people throughout the country.

Mozambique officials are attempting to control water flow through the country’s massive Cahora Bassa Hydro-Electric dam. However, as floodwaters rise, more water must be released, causing problems for those living down river.

Men clear a road near Vilanculos after a cyclone added to problems already caused by massive flooding. In all, the severe weather has killed at least 45 people and displaced more than 250,000 others since January. A UMNS Web-only photo courtesy of the Mozambique Annual Conference.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief, in partnership with Action by Churches Together, has responded quickly to the crisis, providing emergency grants and shipping shelter materials, blankets and kitchen sets for 8,000 families through the United Methodist Church in Mozambique.

UMCOR is the agency that responds to disasters worldwide in behalf of The United Methodist Church, providing relief and recovery work to vulnerable people. Wherever possible, UMCOR partners with other religious and secular organizations to pool resources and avoid duplicating efforts and, in Mozambique, the agency is working with the church.

Machado said the Vilanculous District in the country’s Inhambane Province was most affected by the cyclone. Homes have been destroyed-including those of United Methodist pastors and church members-and many schools, shops, cell phone towers and other infrastructure are damaged.

“Many families are at the moment living in the UMC chapel (Central United Methodist Church),” said the bishop. “The township is pathless due to the cut-off trees and electricity poles that have blocked the street.”

Flooding also has devastated churches in the United Methodist districts of Nicuadale, Pebane, Chinde, Sofala, Maganja da Coasta, the provincial capital of Quelimane and Tate. Churches, chapels and parsonages in Chiruala, Nacunhe, Inhassoro, Mapinhane, Machuuquele, Chibo and Maxanissee also have been destroyed or heavily damaged. The parsonage of the Quelimane United Methodist Church is under water, and the belongings of the Rev. Bene Cumbucane Diraiva are gone.

All the churches affected have partners with churches of the Missouri Annual Conference, which enjoys a special relationship with the people of Mozambique through its Mozambique Initiative

“‘Dramatic’ is the word I can use to describe the extent of destruction of social and economic infrastructures,” said Initiative director Carol Kreamer. “Accessing affected areas by automobile is challenging.”

The Rev. Isaias Machegane, superintendent of The United Methodist Church in the Zambezi province, contacted the Initiative about critical needs such as bedding, food and fresh water, mosquito nets and clothing. “People have lost everything,” he said.

Machado says more than 7,000 United Methodists are in the Zambezi Province and more than 5,200 in Tete.

“We would like to ask for your urgent assistance to address this issue which is beyond our financial capacity. Your prayers and answers of hope will be much appreciated in this moment of our darkest and desperate situation,” he said.

Mozambique is one of the world’s poorest countries and does not have resources to cope with the growing number of displaced people.

The United Methodist Church in Mozambique has 160,000 members in more than 170 congregations in the 23 districts of two annual conferences. There are 132 ordained pastors, 32 deacons and 278 evangelists.

The United Methodist Council of Bishops met in November in Maputo, Mozambique, for its first-ever council meeting held outside the United States.

Mozambican President Armando Guebuza told the bishops that the church’s commitment to social justice had created conditions helping Mozambique become an independent nation and to begin to tackle poverty. The president expressed openness to working with the church and listed eliminating poverty as one of his top priorities.

The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, the parent body for UMCOR, has established UMCOR Advance #156500 to provide emergency relief, rehabilitation for refugees and assistance for displaced people and communities.

Checks can be mailed to UMCOR at P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087, with the words “UMCOR Advance #156500, Mozambique Emergency” written on the memo line. Credit card donations can be made by calling (800) 554-8583. Donations are being accepted at http://secure.gbgm-umc.org/donations/advance/donate.cfm?code=156500&id=3018386.

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Mozambique Flooding: World Vision Launches $2 Million Appeal for Worsening Crisis

Mozambique: Almost 100,000 Children Displaced By Cyclone And Floods - Unicef


United Methodist Committee on Relief

The Missouri Initiative

Mozambique country profile


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