Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum submitted by Jonathan Walter

  One of the Committee members (Ann Clwyd) suggested that, during Mozambique's floods of 2000, (a) if it had not been for the South African helicopters, a lot more lives would have been lost, and (b) co-ordination of the relief effort was poor in the early stages.

  No one would disagree that the South African air force saved many Mozambican lives during the floods of 2000. According to Joseph Hanlon and Frances Christie (authors of Mozambique and the Great Flood of 2000), South African aircraft saved 14,391 people. However, it should be pointed out that media coverage focused on international helicopter rescues while failing to report that the majority of Mozambicans were saved by local boats—both military and civilian. During the 2000 floods, a total of 29,100 people were saved by local boats, while 16,500 were saved by regional and international aircraft. Hence it makes sense, in terms of building capacity to adapt to climate-change related disasters, to invest more in local, low-cost, life-saving resources which have already proved their worth.

  On Ms Clwyd's second point, I would point out that according to Mr Hanlon and Mrs Christie, who were in Mozambique at the time of the floods and who have written a book on the subject, the Mozambican government's coordination of a joint logistics operations centre enabled military aircraft from nine different countries to operate successfully together under civilian command—the first time ever in a natural disaster in Mozambique. According to Hanlon and Christie: "The effect of the coordinated effort was spectacular".

Jonathan Walter, Editor,
World Disasters Report

May 2002

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