15 March 2013

Mozambique: Prime Minister Sums Up in Floods Debate

Maputo — Mozambican Prime Minister Alberto Vaquina on Friday declared that the main reason Mozambicans are so vulnerable to national disasters is poverty.

Winding up a debate on the floods crisis of January and February in the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, Vaquina insisted that, in order to deal with disasters, poverty reduction must remain a government priority.

He agreed with opposition deputies that the solution to flooding could not be simply the resettlement of those affected, but must include the construction of protective infrastructures, such as dams and dikes, and reservoirs for water storage.

But such solutions would have to come in stages, given Mozambique’s shortage of money.

Thus studies on a dam at Mapai, in Gaza province, which could control flooding in the Limpopo valley, showed that it would cost 600 million US dollars, which the country does not have available.

“We cannot solve all of Mozambique’s problems at once”, said Vaquina. A pre-requisite, however, was that “we must work together for the development of the country in peace and stability, and this depends on all of us”.

The immediate post-flood priorities, he continued, were to repair damaged roads and railways, ensure supplies of seeds and other agricultural inputs for the second sowings, and to guarantee health, education and water supply services for those affected.

He pointed out that past resettlement schemes have been highly successful. After floods in 2007 and 2008, there was large scale resettlement of people living in the Zambezi, Buzi and Pungoe valleys in central Mozambique. They had been relocated from flood-prone areas to higher ground – and as a result none of these people suffered from this year’s flooding.

Vaquina noted that the main opposition party, Renamo, had contradicted itself - some deputies complaining that there were no helicopters to be seen in the flood relief operations, and others that the helicopters came from the South African government.

“Either they were here or they weren’t”, he said. “Clearly the helicopters couldn’t be seen from our Maputo offices. But in Gaza, where they were needed to save lives, they were seen”.

As for Renamo demands that the four wheel drive vehicles used by President Armando Guebuza in his provincial tours should have been dispatched to the flood-hit areas, Vaquina remarked “in floods, the roads are under water. So the use of such vehicles is hardly appropriate”.

Turning to the cholera outbreaks in the northern provinces of Cabo Delgado, Niassa and Nampula, and the disinformation campaigns claiming that officials have deliberately spread the disease, Vaquina pointed out that “cholera is avoidable – we can prevent it through individual and collective hygiene, notably through the correct use of latrines, and washing one’s hands after using the latrine and before eating”.

Vaquina concluded by noting that the rainy season was not yet over, “and so we need to maintain preventive measures”. The government had lifted its Red Alert, but an Orange Alert, just one step down in emergency preparedness, remains in force across the country.

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