On his second day in Mozambique, Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow, visits flood-affected communities in Chokwe Province to see Save the Children’s relief work in action.
Day Two is really Day One as I arrived in Mozambique late yesterday afternoon.
It is a long flight – eight hours from Heathrow to Addis Ababa and then five hours plus from Addis to Maputo, Mozambique’s capital. Thank goodness for the kindness of the Air Ethiopia staff as night flights can be a gruelling journey.
Enough food for everyone IF
I am here for three days by invitation of Save the Children, who I have been supporting in Parliament – especially with the Enough Food for Everyone campaign.
One part of the IF proposals focuses on the EU directive on biofuels, which not only pushes up the price of commodities, but also takes away land for food, as farmers in developing countries are forced to grow biofuels instead of agricultural food produce.
Mozambique is a country of contradictions. Previously ravaged by civil war, the country is now stable. Economic Growth rates are extremely high, yet GDP per head is very low at around $400 to $500 a year.
Poverty is rampant – in absolute terms. Illiteracy is high too. Yet I have also seen a few bustling towns which give some indication of what might be possible.
Today, with Zara Taylor-Jackson, and Field Operative Stefano Marmorato from Save the Children, we visited Chokwe Province in the north of the country. This area has been badly hit by devastating floods in the past couple of months, with thousands stranded, seeing their homes, land and livelihoods washed away.
We first went to a resettlement area, Chiahaquela. Here hundreds were gathered around makeshift tents, to be given new – small – plots of land to live on by Government officials.
Afterwards, it was a drive along rocky terrain to a small village literally named ‘September 25′ (September 25, 1964, was the day the revolutionary movement Frelimo was formed). In this village some remarkable events were occurring.
A brilliant kind of aid
Save the Children was there in force, unloading tools to give to residents who had lost their houses. These included wire, a saw and a machete. With these tools residents could build small dwellings within a couple of weeks.
It was a brilliant kind of aid – literally giving residents the tools to enable them to be independent and secure.
The field workers were also, interviewing residents to provide tarpaulins, soap, chlorine liquid for the water. They were also building latrines – so far around 700. The Save the Children staff ran the project like a military operation, ensuring tools and extra supplies went to the people most in need.
Save the Children worked closely with the village elders, and went from dwelling to dwelling with them in order to bring the community on side. What was uplifting to see was that despite the terrible floods, a group of women were singing, dancing and praying for rain.
Kindness in the face of adversity
Another drive, this time to the village of Tominane. First to meet community leaders under a tree, discussing sexual health, general health and education. The head teacher of the primary school told us that he had achieved an 85% literacy rate: good reading and writing skills for all those who left the school.
Then to another part of the village, where we saw a home that had been washed away and a Save the Children temporary dwelling in its place.
The woman who lived there alone had had her house and her crops destroyed in the floods and was now under a tarpaulin. And yet, she was as cheerful and kind as it was possible to be – and somewhat stoical too. She had nothing, yet her demeanour and character suggested she had every virtue in the face of such adversity.
Literacy for all
Towards the end of the day, we went to see the Administrator of the province (equivalent to a Deputy Governor).
A great and charismatic individual – passionate about the work of Save the Children in his area. He too is initiating literacy programmes, with special classes established all over Chokwe to envelope adults and children in literacy.
Tomorrow we will be visiting a school and some other aid projects.