The humanitarian side of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is again proving its worth in flood-stricken Mozambique where a number of military elements have been working 24/7, helping thousands displaced by floodwaters.
Additionally, the South African Air Force (SAAF) is providing airlift capability to Gift of the Givers. 28 Squadron C-130 transport aircraft have started moving more than 150 tons of food, donated by supporters of the Pietermaritzburg headquartered non-government organisation, to areas most in need.
The SANDF deployment includes Navy divers, SAAF Oryx helicopters and crew as well as primary health care nurses, dieticians and environmental health officers from the SA Military Health Service.
SANDF personnel have been in Mozambique for just over a week, first assisting in moving flood victims to safety while Navy divers did search and rescue tasks in swollen rivers.
“The joint operation has made it possible for the SANDF rescue team to distribute food as flood levels have been receding and search and rescue operations are now making way for food distribution actions,” SANDF Corporate Communications Director Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga said.
“The SANDF is still on standby in flood stricken areas with helicopters, medical personnel and search and rescue teams.”
Speaking to the Afrikaans daily Beeld, Colonel Andre Pieterse said from the hastily erected aid centre in the country, SANDF personnel had rescued at least 500 people from the raging Limpopo River in Mozambique earlier this week. This included hoisting people to safety from rooftops and out of trees.
Medicins Sans Frontieres/Doctors with Borders (MSF) is also been active in flood-ravaged areas of Mozambique as well as Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Just how badly South Africa’s eastern neighbour was hit by the heavy rain and subsequent flooding is starkly illustrated by Lucas Molfino, MSF medical co-ordinator in Mozambique.
He said: “Chokwe gives the impression of being a post-war scene. The majority of the population have been evacuated to temporary shelters. In the centre of town there are obvious issues related to sanitation and public health because of dirty stagnant water and the presence of dead animals on the streets.”
MSF estimates are there are around 114 000 people currently staying in 10 transitional camps. Sanitation is a major concern at the largest camp, Chiaquelane, close to Chokwe. There are currently 60 latrines to serve a displaced population of about 50 000 Molfino said.
The two health facilities in the area are out of drugs and malaria rapid tests and attend to about 300 patients a day. There is no ambulance for referrals and the main hospital lacks staff and equipment he added.
The SANDF contingent deployed to Mozambique last week in order to provide humanitarian assistance in the flood stricken areas. The contingent included South African Navy Divers, health professionals from the South African Military Health Services, two Oryx helicopters and a C-130 Hercules aircraft from the South African Air Force. The Maritime Reaction Squadron from the South African Navy is on standby.