On Higher Ground

Mozambique’s flood refugees 

Floods in Mozambique are not uncommon. Some people, living nearthe rivers, have had to abandon theirhomes as often as four times in thelast seven years and then return to abare earth.

In 2008 the government offered the victims new lands far from the riversto harvest and raise their homes. Although having lost all they had, thepeople are looking with positive eyesto the future. This not trouble-freethough, since the new land is not asfertile as the old one. A future withoutthe chance of floods overwhelms thatof the bad lands. 

“We are not going back” says ChiefChimundo, head of the agrarian community on the banks of Púngui riverin South Mozambique. On 26th December 2007 they had to evacuate theirhomes as the river flooded. Now theylive in Matua resettlement camps 6 kilometer from the river where there isno risk of floods.

Floods in Southern part of Africaare not uncommon. Zambese Riv-er, which runs through Zambia, Na-mibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique is the fourth biggest river inAfrica and Mozambique’s largest. In2001 the many of the rivers in Southand central Mozambique flooded including Zambese River, Púngui andBúzi. Resulting in more than 800deaths. 

In Guora Guora accommodation centre there are 300 families fleeing from the Buzi River. Theyare moving from the riverbanks with no plans of returning. Volunteers from the Red Cross and government agentspump 20.000 litres of water, from the river that destroyed their homes, and purify it so it will be safe for drinking. 

These houses are all scheduled for demolition and the people whoused to live in them have already been given land further from the river wherethe risk of floods is lower. 

In the last seven years some farmers living on the banks of one of thebig rivers have had to evacuate fourtimes. But now they have had enoughof the insecurity of living in a danger area. Now they are making newhomes away from the river, permanent homes where the future looksbright.

Chief Chimundo is the now head ofthe resettlement camps Matua, wherethey have started to build permanenthomes. He says that they are tired ofthe floods: “We just want to make homes where we can grow corn, riceand mandioca [a potato like vegetable] without the risk of floods.” 

Moving away from the river means less risk of floods. But longer hikes to catch fish means it will not be as readily available. 

The maters cook Shimu and the young ones play around and gradually learn the trade. Shimu is made from cornand is cooked in water until it gets quite firm. If you have fowl or fish you eat it together but most don’t have thaluxury and eat it plain. 

Mosquito nets distributed by the Red Cross to prevent Malaria. The volunteers live in the same conditions as thepeople they are helping. The humanity shines through their work.

Despite the floods life goes on. 

The new land is not as fertile and the river is asource for fish. Now they live 6 km from the river,a little too long for them to walk every day to theriver to get fish. This is the main reason why people have not as of yet been positive to the idea ofliving away from the river. But now, as the floodsbecome more and more frequent people are getting fed up with living there. Most of the people living in the resettlement camps are planning to livethere permanently. 

The floods also mean that the kids can cool down in a stream that can dry up during the winter months. The stream is also used for washing cloths and animals resort to it for drinking water. 

First after evacuating poeple live together in shelters, while they try to make their new home and groom the newland. Later they will start to built their houses. 

The Pédron family lives in one of smaller shelters. They came to the Jone Segrado camps with 1400 others who had cultured the land around river Púnguie.Even though it’s just two weeks since they evacuated, they have raised a temporary shelter and toilet. They have also started sawing rice and corn. LatifoPedró, the family father, does not even think about going back to the river, “wehave had to move four times in the last eight years and we are not moving again”. 

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