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The BBC's Greg Barrow
reports on the dramatic rescue of mother and baby
 real 28k

Friday, 28 April, 2000, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Flood baby's family start afresh
Salvador, Sofia and Rosita
The family were surprised they had made international headlines
By Catherine Mahoney of the Red Cross

Sofia Pedro's eyes widened as she saw the front pages of foreign newspapers showing her being rescued from the Mozambican flood waters with her new-born baby, Rosita.

Now living temporarily in a hotel in the capital Maputo, Sofia, her husband Salvador, and their other two children Celina (4) and Menete (2) have no idea of their world renown.



We are very happy that these pictures were seen around the world

Salvador Pedro
Baby Rosita sleeps peacefully, also unaware that she became the human face of Mozambique's recent disaster after being born in the tree where her mother had sought refuge - and then rescued by helicopter.

"We are very happy that these pictures were seen around the world," says Salvador.

"It means that the world understands what happened to the people of Mozambique."

Waiting to go home

It was a chance meeting. While standing in the Red Cross offices in Maputo, an official had pointed to the newspaper I was carrying.


Sofia Pedro and Rosita
Sofia: Has been promised free education for her children
"Sofia was in here yesterday," she mentioned casually.

The family were collecting clothes, blankets and kitchenware so they could go home sooner.

Home is a tiny village called Mondiano. Sofia was out in the fields when the floods hit.



Our family's future depends on us, on our land, on us rebuilding our home.

Sofia Pedro
Salvador worked in Maputo as a porter, sending his weekly wages home to his wife and children.

"It was a Sunday afternoon about four o'clock, and the waters began rising," she remembers.

Refuge

"The water was coming right up to the house, and was getting stronger and stronger, so like everyone else in the village, we headed for the trees.


Rescue operation
Sofia and baby Rosita were airlifted to safety
"I put my two small children on my back and tried to climb up. It was very difficult.

"There were 15 of us all together, and we were there for four days. We prayed and prayed.

"We had nothing to eat, and the children cried and cried, but we could do nothing for them."

The name of the tree, Maturrara, means "sacred". The villagers would pray to the tree, for rain, for favours and to talk to those on the other side, so they had faith that it would protect them.

At 0300 on Wednesday morning, Sofia went into labour, and the rest is history.

Rescue

An hour after baby Rosita was born, the helicopters arrived to take them to safety - and the world's press.


Sofia Pedro
Sofia exhausted but happy after her ordeal
But for all the publicity, Salvador still didn't know that he had a baby daughter, or even that the rest of his family had survived. They had been transferred to a camp in Chokwe.

Eventually a local newspaper re-united the two - and Salvador was ecstatic to find his family, complete with new addition.

They are enjoying some benefits: the Government has committed to providing education for all their children - a rarity in a country where less than a third of children go to school.

Did they feel this was a life-changing experience? Sophia and Salvador are very philosophical.

"No, we don't feel that life has changed all that much. We still have to go home in a few weeks and start our lives over again. Our house is gone - we have to move to the neighbouring village Chibutu.

"Our family's future depends on us, on our land, on us rebuilding our home."

And will they have any more children?

Sofia laughs and says, "No way!" but then coyly looks across to her husband.

"You'll have to ask Salvador," she says.

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See also:

28 Feb 00 | Africa
Long task ahead for aid workers
01 Mar 00 | Africa
Born above the floodwaters
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