Skip to main content

Mozambique: Flood Disaster

Volume 448: debated on Tuesday 14 February 1984

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

3.48 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to repeat in the form of a Statement the Answer being given in another place to a Private Notice Question:

"The Government heard with the greatest concern of the devastation and flooding caused in Mozambique, Swaziland and part of South Africa by the recent cyclone. Last Sunday we sent relief supplies by air freight to the British Embassy in Maputo for the Mozambique authorities. These consist of 415 tents, 12,500 blankets, half a million water purifying tablets and 200 cases of tinned meat. The total cost was £205,000. We are also making one Land Rover available to Oxfam for flood relief work. This will cost about £10,000.

"Just before the cyclone struck we had provided drought relief that can also help flood victims. This relief consists of 4 Leyland lorries, 150 tonnes of protein-enriched soup powder, and seeds, worth in all about £100,000. Part of this is still to be delivered. We are also giving assistance to Swaziland".

My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Baroness for repeating that Statement, and sympathise with those affected by the disaster in Mozambique and adjacent areas. I understand that in Mozambique 49,000 people have been made homeless and have also lost their possessions. I am sure the noble Baroness will agree that it is important to bear in mind that the flooding follows the worst drought since records began. Some areas that are now flooded had had no rain for five years.

We welcome the action taken by the ODA. Although this contribution is very useful, can the noble Baroness say whether further assistance could be given in view of the enormous scale of the damage and the loss, both in Mozambique and in the other countries affected? Can the noble Baroness say whether more seeds will be sent, these being absolutely vital for survival?

I have noted that the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference has, as one of its first agricultural projects, a regional programme for improved drought-resistant varieties of two peasant staples, millet and sorghum. Is this something as regards which we could help, especially in view of the excellence of some of the agricultural research centres and institutes in this country? I understand also that the railway link between Maputo and Swaziland is very badly damaged, and that a vital bridge has been destroyed. Is it possible that we might be able to offer assistance there? Ironically, floods have damaged the waterworks in Mozambique; they have destroyed the pumping station and also the purification plant. Is there not a possibility that we might be able to offer assistance there in view of the expertise that exists in this country?

My Lords, we, too, thank the Minister of State for repeating the Answer given in the House of Commons. I have nothing to add to the extremely well-informed comments made by the Leader of the Labour Opposition. However, I should like to raise one question. It was not entirely clear from the wording of the Answer whether all of the help mentioned went to Mozambique and then something extra went to Swaziland. Was that the case, or was it divided between the two countries? If the latter, can the Minister of State give us some idea of the proportions?

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for their reception of this Answer. As far as concerns the help that has been given to both Mozambique and Swaziland, I should add that in fact there is also help coming in from the EEC, and in the case of Mozambique it is 500,000 ECUs and in the case of Swaziland it is 100,000 ECUs. It is worth bearing in mind that, of that, approximately 20 per cent. comes from Great Britain and that we have made it clear to Mozambique that we will consider further requests, if these become necessary, in due course.

On the second point that the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, made, I will of course draw the attention of my right honourable friend Mr. Raison to the noble Lord's remarks about agricultural research and the need for more seeds. As far as the total numbers affected are concerned, I understand that there are still no reliable figures for the victims but 10,000 families are said to be homeless and destitute, 70,000 families are said to have lost all their crops, and one village is reported to have disappeared. Highways and bridges have been washed away, and the railway lines have been damaged. That confirms what the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, said. Moreover, water supply pipes have been washed away, and in Maputo, the capital, water is being supplied by tanker. It is, of course, because of the danger to public water supplies that such a large part of the help goes in water purifying tablets.

As regards the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, I must point out that the figures that I gave are for Mozambique. The aid that will be going to Swaziland will be in addition to that.

My Lords, can the Minister of State say whether, in addition to the official aid which she has described, anything has been forthcoming from the voluntary agencies, such as Christian Aid, bearing in mind the splendid record of their Disasters Committee, which brings together the voluntary agencies for causes such as this? Have they been active? I noted what the noble Baroness said about the support to Oxfam, but I am wondering whether there has been a broader rallying of support in this case.

My Lords, I understand that there has been help from voluntary organisations. There has certainly been help from Oxfam, and, I believe, from other organisations. Perhaps I might let the noble Lord know which other organisations have in fact sent help, or have promised to send help.

My Lords, has the Minister of State any information which she could give the House about aid contributions made by other countries to Mozambique, and in particular Russia, East Germany and Eastern Europe generally?

My Lords, I have already indicated the aid that is coming from the European Community, and I understand that there will be aid from other Western countries. I have no information about any aid from the Soviet Union or any Eastern European countries.

My Lords, while everyone welcomes the immediate ready response to this case of emergency, would the Minister accept that to achieve some degree of recovery in this situation requires a greater contribution than is mentioned in the immediate package? Will the noble Baroness confirm or otherwise that the British contribution to the International Development Association is being reduced this year, and would not this particular case of emergency encourage the Minister to support the IDA to a greater extent?

My Lords, I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, that this is a terrible situation, and the figures and the latest reports indicate that to be the case. If I may say so, the position of the IDA is, in fact, outside the Question, but the noble Lord will recall that my right honourable friend Mr. Raison said in another place recently that of course we are concerned about the position of the IDA and are making a contribution so that there will be an increased amount in the IDA.