The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Salvaging lives

After Mozambique's floods, Lutherans help families recover

While they wait for land to become available, Helena Carlos and her family are staying in a former cashew nut factory in a suburb of Maputo, an area where more than 20,000 people lost their homes and livelihoods. Since Mozambique's floods destroyed their home in February, Helena and her husband hope to be among the families Lutherans help resettle.

Assisted by the ELCA, which sent $250,000 for southern Africa flood relief, the Lutheran World Federation is resettling families such as the Carloses and setting up water treatment systems where clean water, safe latrines and medical treatment are concerns.

"I miss my house and neighbors," says Helena Carlos, who visits the ruins of her old home daily. "But we can't rebuild our house here. It's too dangerous. We need a secure place so we won't be afraid of sleeping at night."

There is plenty to fear. The aftermath is terrible. More than 600 people have died. Hundreds of thousands more were stranded on rooftops, floating on scraps of their former homes, or wading through ruined fields in search of shelter and food. In February and March, floodwaters washed away 250,000 acres of crops and drowned 40,000 head of cattle — a year's food supply lost for one of the world's poorest countries. Food will continue to be scarce, with the ground too soggy for spring planting.

Before the floods, economic experts predicted that this year Mozambique would have the highest economic growth rate in the world. But now the devastating currents of a debilitating flood and a $1.46 million dollar weekly foreign debt payment have pushed the small agrarian country into an even greater dependence on foreign aid.

At the factory, the LWF is trying to provide displaced families with desperately needed food. Lutheran World Relief gave $1 million in emergency relief, including quilts, clothing, and health and school kits.

While she waits, Helena Carlos considers naming her newborn baby after the floods. "Maybe it will bring him strength," she says.


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February issue


Embracing diversity