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'Dire situation' after Mozambique floods

Does the global community even know or care about the floods in Mozambique?
Last modified: 27 Jan 2013 20:22
Streets and houses are flooded in Chokwe district [AFP]

Does the global community even know or care about the floods in Mozambique?

How can Mozambique compete with the likes of Mali in terms of grabbing international headlines?

I'm asking myself this as I drive from Maputo to Chokwe cover these latest floods.

There is this odour when I arrive.

It's smells of raw sewage and death... dead animals that drowned when the place flooded.

I'm not sure what to expect when I first arrive in the town of Chokwe, in South Mozambique. The newspaper articles say heavy rains have resulted in widespread flooding and nearly 300,000 people have been displaced.

I know I am not going to see homes under water and dead bodies floating around in the water. To be honest part of me thinks I will see a few puddles here and there, and this will be a false alarm.

But I am wrong. Things aren't as bad as they were back in 2000 when an estimated 800 people died... but it's still a dire situation.

Homes have been flooded, roads and bridges washed away and 50,000 people have moved to higher ground... an open field with their belongings.

Emergency services in Mozambique are struggling to reach people stranded by floods in the south of the country. 

I am in a boat with soldiers from the civil defence force. They are going up and down the river helping people stranded to cross to the other side. The only bridge and road was washed away.

Adelaide Sitoe sits next to me. She can't hide her excitement at being one of the first people on the boat.

Her town Guija is one of the worst affected. Her priority is crossing the river so she can stay with family, get a good meal and come back when water levels have gone down.

"We lost everything, our animals, houses and property," she says sadly, " Its been terrible. We had to  climb trees to escape the water. I know of five people who  died. We buried one person yesterday."

Starting over is going to be hard. An old man next to me tells me we are floating on top of their field. 

People grew tomatoes, rice and maize. The water is now a metre above what used to be their crops. 

He asks me if I know anyone who can help him start over. I say I don't and he looks away frustrated.

I ask him why he chose to live in an area that's almost always floods whenever it rains. He says his family has been here for generations and the soils are fertile.

It makes sense in theory but I don't know if it's practical.

I push my luck and ask him why people don't build their houses on stilts like they do in other countries... he gets annoyed and tells me I don't know anything about the people, culture and the area. I have clearly offended him.

So I decide to spend an hour or so in Guija, and remind the soldiers to pick me up when they do their return trip.

Out of all the towns I have seen, this is the worst so far. Families are sleeping on the side if the road. They say they are still waiting for help.

Lizia Ngovene and her children say they are drinking water from the river which is dirty. Food is running out. They are eating pigs and other farm animals that died in the water.

I don't know how true that is... but he has no reason to lie. I can tell she is desperate.

I don't see aid workers in this town. One helicopter flies over us... probably searching for people stranded... I don't really know.

The government of Mozambique is doing it's best to help people stranded but the feeling here is help isn't coming fast enough.

I think they don't have the resources and the world seems fixated with the other story in Africa which is Mali.

After all how can people affected by floods compete with the French military and rebels in North Africa?

The Mozambicans seem to be coming a poor second.

There is hardly any international media here... yet, except Al Jazeera and AFP that I have seen. If it does make the headlines it might as well not be happening right?

I feel sorry for the soldiers trying to help. They only have two boats on this part of the river. And who knows how many more people out there still need help.