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Sunday, 12 March, 2000, 13:40 GMT
Mozambique: Is the world doing enough?
As Mozambique is hit by the worst floods it has faced in 50 years, has the world failed to act? Are we doing too little, too late?
This week's Talking Point On Air was hosted by Robin Lustig. Contributing to the programme were Katarina Toll Velasquez of the UN in Geneva and Andrew Simms of the New Economic Foundation, in the UK.
Your comments after the programme:
What a shame - innocent lives being lost - for not any mistake of their own. And it is a shame that the rest of the world stood and watched for so long before giving a helping hand. Thanks to those who have responded.
But - where are the other African countries? Is it only the rest of the world that has compassion on human life? Is it not time Africa woke up or grew up and learned to take some responsibility? Did not Mozambique support the liberation war in Zimbabwe? Now I do not see any help from them 20 years later - have they forgotten how Mozambique helped them? Africa is not short of resources - look at the number of wars being fought in Africa - killing their own people.
Isaac Pappy, USA
Short term aid is one thing but what will the long term aid consist of?
Philip Karwowski, UK
I only have one thing to say. if mozambique had raw materials or exports which Britain needed then they would have offered help so much quicker!
Should we not take time to review the problems in our own backyard for a moment. The media are keen to attack our own governments past and present on failures on the domestic front through lack of public funding, then criticise if public funding is not forthcoming to assist in disaster zones the world over.
We should be criticising the politicians, wherever they be on holding on to vast amounts of food etc to maintain artificially high prices. The west can only do so much as the world stretches from crisis to crisis.
Glad to see that Portugal is doing all it can for the people of Mozambique. W haven't the Associated Press and Reuters not talked about what the Portuguese are doing in aid to Mozambique?
John Bettencourt, USA
South Africa and Britain are the two countries whose efforts really did make a difference when they were most urgently needed. I am pleased, as a South African, to see our Defence Force working constructively to assist a fellow African state after having previously conducted several cruel wars in the Southern African region.
As a British resident, I am also proud of Britain's fundamental decency and compassion which cause it always to be in the front line of any international relief operation. Pity about the unseemly diplomatic scuffle.
Malcolm Hay, UK
People should not be surprised about slow response to the disaster in Mozambique. If the country was of any interest to the governments of the rich western countries(oil, geo-strategic position...) they would have acted much quicker. Just remember Kosovo! Hypocrisy!!!
Manuela Rosic, UK
Shame on those people turning this into a political comment about what little other African countries have done or 'it's their own fault, they should be prepared' or how much money was spent by other countries on fireworks, or how much more aid they will need in the future. The people drowning in these floods, losing their homes, families, livelihoods, don't care about these issues. All they want is to live. Does it matter whether the help comes from UK, USA, SA, China or wherever? How long can you sit on the fence and say it's somebody else's fault/problem? If you are watching your family drown or suffocate in the mud, do you really think these people care about where the aid is coming from? Whether or not their country's debt will be cancelled if they die? If you could elect the politicians and military only to die in the floods, you may have a point, but these are innocent victims. Where is your humanity?
If the leadership in Mozambique feels that we have been slow to respond, I wonder how they would feel if we refused to respond at all? As for the debt, the President of Mozambique is not asking for $250 million in aid, he is asking for $8.5Bbn in aid - isn't that a little much? It is not that we are cold hearted, it is just that we cannot save all of the "victims" of the world. I work in animal rescue and I wish I could save them all. Most of the animals I work with have come into their situation through no fault of their own, usually it is people who put them there, but they need help, so I help those I can. The people of Mozambique are in a similar situation, it is not their fault, they are in a situation created by Mother Nature, they just need help and the West is giving aid.
William Huggins, USA
My Home is Zimbabwe, it saddens me to know that we are right next door to Mozambique and are not doing anything to help. The current ruler has blinkers on that are blinding him to see that we need the survival of Mozambique for our own survival. Even the help for our own people in effected areas is slow. I feel a huge gratitude to those nations and people that are committed to help.
Helen Van Schalkwyk, Ireland
To all the westerners criticising your own countries for not doing enough, and indeed to all the critics: what are YOU personally doing about it? After all, even if you live in a crumbly council flat, you're a millionaire by Mozambique's standards.
Alex Chiang, Australia
How can we fire missiles in the Gulf war that cost £1 million a time and then question whether we should send in half a dozen helicopters at a cost of £2 million. Perhaps if Africa was an oil rich nation they might have got the international help they deserve.
My family and I lived in West Africa country of the Ivory Coast for 10 years. I travelled to East Africa country of Malawi in 96. I have lived with African families, laughed and cried with them, learned their language and our family counts many African families as close personal friends. Why has there not been adequate aid from the West? Pure and simple: RACISM!
Carl E. Eoth, Mexico
Even though South Africa is made out to be the hero in this case, they have only supplied 7 helicopters out of a total of 46 that they have, and they had a diplomatic squabble with the British and the USA over the use of their Hoedspruit military base. Mozambique originally had a holdup because of their government's insistence on visas for the overseas helpers and detailed documentation for the equipment. Zimbabwe could not even save its own people from drowning since its military equipment is tied up in a battle elsewhere in Africa. The British had infighting between government departments about who should pay for what, delaying their response for at least 2 days, and America is altogether late for the show. And where are China, Japan and the rest of the planet? But in spite of the excruciatingly slow reaction by the world community (people started dying early in February), now they have finally woken up.
Marius Jordaan, USA ex South Africa
To the West bashers who invariably crawl out whenever something disastrous in Africa happens I say this: what has Africa done? The OAU's aid to Mozambique has amounted to half a million dollars. That's it! And you have the nerve to beg and blame the West for doing less! To Nigeria: you spent over one and half million pounds on fireworks for the millennium (which failed to go off properly).
I. Taylor, South Africa (originally Ireland)
Your reports on the Mozambican flooding are excellent. My brother in law, Dr. Bernd Weimer, has been living in Maputo for many years and can confirm what you write about this country.
Meder Walter, Deutschland
When a disaster occurs in a developed country things are very different and it seems to me that people are the most valuable assets. In undeveloped countries people's lives seem meaningless especially in places that are over-populated. Thousands have died due to the UN's irresponsibility and stupidity.
I do not think we have done much to help our fellow Africans. Other African countries just sit and praise South Africa for what she is doing.
Muhingo Rweyemamu, Tanzania
Africa is rich with human resources and rich with natural resources. Africa doesn't need a handout. Africa needs to clean its house by themselves. Africa need right leaders to solve the problems in Africa. Please stop begging when you are rich.
The careless and insincere attitude of the West toward Africa and Africans has again been demonstrated by the recent unwillingness of the West to act and save lives of civilians in Mozambique flood disaster. Just what reason can the West offer for such inhuman behaviour despite their having correspondents on ground giving them detail and graphic pictures of the disaster on daily basis?
Muhammad Dan-Asabe (Nigerian) Xi'an, P.R.China.
I have just today returned from a visit to four of the refugee camps by Palmeira on the Incomati River area. To be brief, conditions are extremely adverse for the people there. I would fully agree with a guest I heard earlier. These people return time and again to the same vulnerable areas because of the poverty issue. The North must not underestimate this fundamental root cause of such problems, and make every effort to aleviate it.
Jeremy Doyle, Power Engineer
I contend that the response has been relatively rapid in view of the events.The real crisis with the need for immediate search and rescue capability only arose on the morning of February 27th and that was when large numbers of helicopters were needed, but even an immediate response would not have brought enough helicopters from Europe in time to save large number of persons. The fact that there is so much aid in Mozambique now, less than one week after the acute crisis, is testimony to the relatively rapid response of the international community.
Rev. David W. Restrick, Maputo, Mozambique
To all who have contributed to relief aid, a big thank you. A friend in need is a friend indeed. I have not been affected by the floods or the cyclone in any way, but that does not make me any more righteous or worthy of life than the poor Mozambicans. I was touched by the high level of pledges by the Britons thus far ... May God bless you!
Togarasei Kamba, Zimbabwe
There are disasaters of such magnitude, that no amont of pre-preparation could adequately equip you to handle the situation. I was in the Caribbean, in Antigua, when hurricane Hugo hit in 1989. One of the buildings damaged was the office of the UN sponsored Pan Caribbean Disaster Preparedness project. Nothing had prepared us or winds of 140 m.p.h. Recovery time might be an aspect of preparedness, but massive disasters can hit you when you are most vulnerable. We cannot blame the victims. Mozambique did not create the cyclones.
We have weather satellites that gave early warnings to this tragedy but we all waited! The flood tragedy in Mozambique, serious as it is, only caught the attention of the world because of the power of the vivid images conveyed by TV.
Ralph Mills-Tettey Accra, Ghana.
For those contributions (mostly from the USA, I note) who suggest that this is "not our problem", I say WAKE UP. How can we stand by, while innocent and vulnerable human beings suffer such appalling natural disasters?
Jeremy Doyle, Mozambique
Tragic as they are, hardly a week goes by without another catastrophe happening somewhere in the world. To be realistic we just do not have the resources to help the whole world and it appears to me these countries generally make little or no attempt to help their own people. We certainly do not encourage them by jumping to the rescue, spending money we desperately need for our own problems. Rather than debt cancellation we should track down leaders who plunder these countries' finances with impunity and possibly encourage irresponsible government.
Nigel Clark, Germany
Some of these comments may sound barbaric but nature itself is such. Mother Nature has many ways of protecting herself and keeping a balance. One way is with natural disasters. If man overtakes the land eventually she will take it back. If this disaster had happened 100 years ago most of the world would not have known about it. Are we interfering with nature when we help in these situations. Can the world afford to step in every time natural disasters hit a country?
Phil Griffiths, New Zealand.
Mozambique shows that 'adapting' to climate change is absurd. Prevention has to be the watchword now. This means that global climate-related damage that occurs from here, that absolutely cannot be prevented, must be handled on the basis of 'reparations'. The floods in Mozambique are linked to the rising global temperature that has been triggered by the accumulating release of greenhouse gas emissions from industrial activity in the industrial countries over the last 200 years.
Aubrey Meyer, UK
I am sick to death of reading and hearing about how the Western World has not done enough to help in this disaster. It is easy to blame others for the shortcomings of developing countries. How much more money does the US and UK have to contribute until everyone is satisfied? We the taxpayers are being ripped off in oil prices, and our taxes are continually being raised to support so many of these do-gooder missions and what most people do not realise is that we (US & UK) have always lent money, etc... to speed the development of these countries so that they can be integrated into the global markets as world business partners.
I think that as long as sub-Saharan Africa continues to be exploited by Western nations for its resources things will never change. Unfortunately, the US does not view African culture as valuable to the world at large.
Fred Wilcott, Nevada, USA
More people are suffering and dying because of AIDS per day compared with this so-called disaster. If the world had spent as much money for medicine that slow down the AIDS-disease as we now do with sending food, etc. we should be able to spare much more lives and help many more people to a decent life.
Ulf Carlsson, Sweden
Can't people take some responsibility for their own lives, their own catastrophes, responsibility for preparing for disaster. We've has our own plights of tragedy, here, in the USA. When I read of the war act horrors the people of Africa have inflicted on their own country folk. I think aid for disasters such as is occurring now should come from NEAR and far, but aren't other African nations most close at hand?
Lexi Allen, USA
Mozambique fought civil wars, not wars of "liberation", and blaming these wars on South Africa rather than on the people who chose to fight them, is simply more of the same tendency for Africa to hide its own self-destructive tendencies behind convenient attacks on the West.
Jon Livesey, USA
I went to Mozambique in December 1999 to work with orphans. Mozambicans are some of the friendliest people I have ever met. The news has not told the reality or gravity of the situation. Out of 100 neighbours of the orphanage, recently tested for disease, 95 had malaria. This disaster has deserved international support and outcry as over 100,000 are at dire peril of perishing soon, whether from flooding or disease.
Carey Preston, United States
The quality of care during times of crisis should not reflect the quality of a country's economy. If this had happened to, say, France, the world would come rushing, more worried about foreign investments than actual human life.
Amy DeHerrera, USA
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Your comments during the programme:
We should distinguish between commitments and obligations. Many African countries with quite developed economies should spend less on defence and express solidarity.
Gus Swan, London, UK
Corruption in Southern Africa is not a different issue from elsewhere in the world. We are still learning to make government more accountable.
Ana Brum, Lisbon, Portugal (Mozambican)
There have been two separate floods. After the first one a month ago, the UN responded within five days. The second one was last weekend and within six days we now have most of the components in place for the relief programme.
Gilbert Greenall, head of disaster relief for the UN in Mozambique
The UN estimates that by 2025 half of the population of developing countries will be living in areas that are susceptible to environmental disasters. We have to ask how can we create an economic climate in which poorer countries can cope with this.
Andrew Simms of the New Economic Foundation, Brighton, UK
The UN should develop better operational response mechanisms to disasters. They need to respond in hours rather than in days. They need to harness the resources of the world's armed forces.
Justin Walker, Southport, UK
The military civil defence asset network is an effective tool. The unit is in operation now. There was a problem with logistics and mobilising assets such as helicopters. In Southern Africa there has been solidarity. UN agencies mobilised immediately.
Katarina Toll Velasquez, UN, Geneva
Swaziland is next door to Mozambique and the government is not sending any aid. We could have sent truckloads of food and blankets. We could have used our army. The media here is not covering the story. A lot of Mozambicans live here.
Aleta Armstrong, Swaziland
Thank goodness there are some people around like the South African helicopter pilots. We get a lot of cyclones periodically. Who was to know this one would have come so far inland and dump all its water?
Tony Russell, Johannesburg, South Africa
Co-operation is the most essential thing for survival. Competition leads to us trying to take advantage of each other. Everybody's polluting the air but we should share technology. Underdeveloped countries can't manage disasters.
John Ricketts, China
Now Kenya is economically down and we haven't the money to intervene in Mozambique. African governments should see Mozambique as an eye opener about climatic change. In East Africa we had El Nino flood damage in 1997-98 which still haven't been fully assessed by the government. Developed countries are producing greenhouses which are having a devastating effect on poor countries.
Grace Akumu, Nairobi, Kenya
The Central American countries continued to pay debt service in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch. Poor countries are losing $750bn a year by the unfair rigging of commodity markets.
Andrew Simms comments
Other African countries are not pulling their weight. They sit back and let others to do the job. Africans have traditions where neighbours always help. But we always see it as someone else's problem. When countries are fighting they turn around and say they are sovereign countries and now they say help us.
Rose Murathi, Mauritius
At the end of the day it's a question of money. People are dying but nobody seems to want to help. South Africa were excellent, but the western world has the money. From the appeal we can see that an awful lot of people do care. We have a lot of people there
Alison Dunk, Thanet, Kent
Return to the top of the page
24 Feb 00 | Africa
Mozambique: How disaster unfolded
23 Feb 00 | Africa
Mozambique: Worst still to come
28 Feb 00 | Africa
Flood rescuers struggle to cope
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