URGENT UPDATE on Mozambique/Malawi Flooding Emergency - January 20, 2008

Report by David Morrison
Bangula, Malawi

I have just returned to the Iris base in southern Malawi after witnessing the devastating flooding in central Mozambique. The situation is very serious…much worse than last year. We went to Mutarara District in the province of Tete and there learned that over 116,000 refugees have fled the flood waters. Thousands are still trapped on higher ground waiting to be rescued by helicopters and boats. All resources are concentrating on this emergency rescue operation. Soldiers are assisting rescue workers as the banks of the Zambezi River continue to overflow and the threat of increased flooding is very real. For some, the idea of floods penetrating so far inland from the Zambezi River is too obscure. However, the threat is real and in some situations people are removed by force.

I was amazed at the vast amount of water and its destructive force. From the vantage point of a boat on the Zambezi River, it looks like an endless sea. We traveled with the Mozambique navy in a little rescue boat several kilometers inland from the Zambezi River to one of the areas of evacuation, called the Inyangona region. The reality of the cost of the flooding was evident everywhere: the tops of drowned crops and banana trees, and even the roofs of houses. It was hard to imagine how just a few weeks previously people had walked where we now traveled by boat. And now, village life has been silenced by a sea of water leaving only protruding tree tops and isolated highlands. We finally arrived at an island where desperate people patiently wait for a rescue boat. Helicopters were also flying overhead and assisting in the evacuation of people in more remote areas. There is calm and out of the misery, the people politely greeted us with a smile, gave us the nicest places to sit, and at one refugee camp I was even offered their last bananas – I just wanted to cry.

Our Iris Team met with the District Commissioner and was invited to join the weekly debriefing meeting involving all the government officials and NGOs helping with this crisis. Although there is great progress in the rescue operation, the process is time consuming and more boats are needed. Some of the refugee camps are now becoming too large and it may be necessary to establish even more camps. Some of the resettlement areas from last years flooding must now be relocated because they too are being affected by the flooding. Sickness and hunger are two growing concerns and the DC encouraged us all to try to mobilize food into the camps as quickly as possible. We have been appointed to participate in the relief effort and have been given freedom to assist however possible.

On our journey we visited eight refugee camps all of which are threatened by disease and hunger. Some of the refugees have been in the camps since the beginning of January but none have received food. Many left in haste as their homes collapsed in the path of the rising water. A fortunate few had carried maize left over from last winter’s harvest, but most are eating grass seed, water lily bulbs, bugs and mice. Wells are few so most drink the flood water which is resulting in dysentery. Many children have bloated stomachs and eye infections are common. This is malaria season, an added threat for the refugees who sleep without the protection of a mosquito net.

In each camp we witnessed the arrival of new refugees. Hundreds are arriving everyday. They are quick to make a shelter out of branches and grass to provide a little protection to the family from the next rain. These tiny houses sleep families as large as eight people. We didn’t take much with us, but managed to carry enough soap to give one bar to each family at three refugee camps. We also provided about 500 families with a good supply of water purification packets. A bar of soap is such a precious gift in situations such as these!

Everywhere we went desperate people quickly gathered and listened carefully to every word that came out of our mouths – they were in search of hope. We gave them hope – the message of God’s love. So as we preached under the shade of a tree in the refugee camps, the precious poor, those who have lost everything, wearing only dirty rags, welcomed Jesus just like they welcomed us. There is good news to report: In the midst of great suffering and loss, Jesus is moving in the hearts of Africans!

So what are we going to do next? The only accessible road into this region of Mozambique is through Malawi. We are therefore prepared to help in any way possible. Actually we can’t help but help! We believe God wants us to care for the refugees located in camps along the road from the border of Malawi.

Malawi is also affected by the flooding. The swollen Shire River has destroyed crops and hundreds of people have been displaced. People living on Nchalo and Ngabu Islands in the Chikwawa District are evacuating – about two thirds of the islands are under water now. Across the river from Bangula is another area vulnerable to flooding. We are monitoring the situation here carefully and expect that we will need to support 1000 additional families with food from now through June. This is on top of the 1,600 families we already assist each month through our feeding program.

Our goal is to secure food as quickly as possible. In order to do this we need an immediate response from people who can assist us financially. We need to move fast – we hope to deliver the first supply of food to the refugee camps before the end of this week. Our plan is to purchase food in Malawi and carry it by truck into Mozambique. Please help us relieve the suffering.

Thanks for all your prayers and support.

Pictures will be posted soon on our web site: www.morrisonafrica.com

For more information about Iris Africa, contact and support information:

Iris Ministries Canada
3092 Shannon Crescent
Oakville, ON L6L 6B4
(905) 847-7749; fax (905) 847-7931
Web site: www.irismin.ca
Email: info@irismin.ca Contact: Janis Chevreau

U.S. office for mail, support and information:
Iris Ministries, Inc.
PO Box 493995
Redding, CA 96049-3995, USA
Tel: 1 530 255 2077
Web sites: www.irismin.org and www.irismin.com
Email: info@irismin.org

Iris Ministries (UK) Ltd
PO Box 351
Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1WQ
Web site: www.irisministries.co.uk
Email: info@irisministries.co.uk

Iris Ministries South Africa
730 Dikhoorn St.
Moreleta Park, Pretoria

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