U.S. Water News Online
UNITED NATIONS -- When hurricanes and earthquakes strike,
damage is often immediately apparent and international aid pours in
to help the victims. Not so in flood-stricken Mozambique.
The global response has been comparatively slow -- mainly because
the catastrophe has evolved over several weeks and is still getting
worse each day as the waters rise, U.N. officials say.
U.N. agencies and donor governments are scrambling to get more
helicopters, boats, and planes to Mozambique to pluck thousands of
people stranded in trees, rooftops, and muddy patches of land to
The United Nations estimates that between 800,000 to 1 million
people have lost their homes and are in urgent need of help following
the worst floods in decades to strike the poverty-stricken country.
Thousands more are feared dead.
The United States announced it was sending 900 troops and six
C-130 transport planes to ferry aid and supplies to Mozambique, as
well as six MH-53 helicopters to help rescue stranded people. A day
earlier, Britain said it was sending seven helicopters and two
``If the governments of the world are going to help, the time is
now -- not tomorrow or the next day,'' UNICEF executive director
Carol Bellamy said.
The World Food Program, which is organizing search and rescue
operations in Mozambique, is working with seven donated helicopters
and five planes from the South African National Defense Force. Other
aid agencies have six other helicopters.
Together, they have rescued 6,000 people, but WFP officials say
dozens of helicopters, planes, and boats are needed.
``The world has been caught unprepared for this,'' WFP spokesman
Trevor Rowe said in Rome.
Logistics were also playing a role.
``It's not an area of the world where you have fleets of
helicopters at the ready,'' Rowe said. Nor is there a standing U.N.
air force that could move in at a moment's notice, he added.
Bellamy called for donor governments to respond to U.N. appeals
for money, aircraft, and other aid as they would to any emergency:
quickly and sufficiently.
``When an earthquake hits, it grips our attention because it does
its damage in a matter of minutes,'' Bellamy said. ``This kind of
disaster develops slowly, building over a period of weeks. That's why
it's important that we keep our focus on this crisis and treat it
just as urgently as we would an earthquake.''
Abigail Spring, a WFP spokeswoman in New York, said donors had
responded well to the United Nations' initial appeals for $14 million
for Mozambique but that the crisis has since gotten worse.
From its helicopters, the WFP and other agencies dropped
high-protein biscuits, water sanitation tablets, and water buckets to
people marooned in trees and rooftops -- a short-term measure until
the WFP can bring the people to dry ground.
Spring acknowledged it was easy in the initial stages of an
emergency response -- when pictures of suffering children first start
to appear on television and in newspapers -- to fault the response of
``It's all too easy to criticize, but it's an emergency that's
changing every day, and we're only as strong as our donor governments
allow us to be,'' she said.
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