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CNN Today

Mountain: 'The Response has been Generous' to Mozambique from International Community

Aired March 8, 2000 - 2:34 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Ross Mountain is a U.N. special envoy to Mozambique. He's in Maputo to oversee international relief efforts, and he joins us now to explain what's going on.

Mr. Mountain, we just had a report, I'm not sure if you could hear or not, about children who have been separated from their parents. Are you having much success in putting them back together?

ROSS MOUNTAIN, U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY TO MOZAMBIQUE: That's -- I did hear the report, thank you very much. And indeed, there are all too many of these cases, a very human side-effect, human drama that falls amid this disaster of the floods in Mozambique.

I was yesterday in Chaukwei (ph) and was delighted to come across a woman with two young children, and when we asked her where she was going she said she had just come back to Chaukwei to seek her children who she had last track of and had just been reunited with them. So there are happy endings to these stories.

KELLEY: There are charges that aid was slow getting to Mozambique, getting helicopters to help rescue people and getting some aid there. What do you have there now? How are the supplies?

MOUNTAIN: If I may, if you consider that the disaster started the beginning of February, I can understand why people may think it's slow, but in fact, we've had a very separate disaster that struck this country 10 days ago, the weekend before last. And in the light of that benchline, if you will, the response has, in fact, been pretty rapid. We always wish it could be faster, but I think it would be unfair to tax the international community with not doing its best. I think the response has been generous.

We obviously need to pursue and complete the task, which includes looking after those who are in need not only in the camps at the present time but those who will be soon, we hope, returning to their villages, and then rehabilitating the villagers as a whole, including the infrastructure that can allow Mozambique to get back on the road to the economic success that it has become in this part of the world.

KELLEY: What do you need, though? Do you have enough medical supplies, enough food, enough water?

MOUNTAIN: The basic supplies for the immediate week, 10 days, are at hand, and we're moving them about, using the helicopter assets, using the boats that have come in over the last week. But for the longer term, there will still be needs for replenishment of these stocks of food, of drugs. We do need more plastic materials for shelter. As you may see behind me now, it is raining again in Maputo, and that raises the problems that -- the concerns that we have that the people who are going back to their villages prematurely may well be caught if the river starts to rise again after it's been falling for the last week.

KELLEY: I know it's tough sometimes to get a handle on the numbers, but can you tell us how many people you think that you have helped and how many people are in the camps and how long they might have to stay?

MOUNTAIN: The -- the best sort of figures that we have are, there are about 250,000 people who have been displaced from their homes in some 74 camps scattered around the Limpopo (ph) River, the Tsave (ph) River and the Buze (ph) River. We are, we believe, now through this combined operation reaching, indeed, most of those in the camps. In addition, there are about 650,000 people that will be needing food aid not just now but many of them for the next six months, given the failure of the crops due to the floods. And in all the government estimates, that there are 950,000 that are seriously affected in one way or the other. And if one looks at the economic impact, they're even pushing the numbers up to nearly two million because of the areas that have been cut off from the markets and from normal supplies. It's a major disaster for this country.

KELLEY: Well, thank heaven you're there, and we wish you much success in the effort. Thank you so much, Ross Mountain, who is the U.N. humanitarian envoy to Mozambique.

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