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Sun Apr 26 10:15:20 SAST 2015

Desperate mothers scalped for water at camp

GRAEME HOSKEN | 06 February, 2013 00:19
TTP2FLOODS05-04-02-2013-17-02-03-767-.jpg
Displaced Mozambicans

Swatting away flies, Cinesto Guvare argues loudly with a young woman.

The woman is desperate. She has missed the water truck and has nothing for her young family to drink.

Guvare, who runs a small business at the entrance of the Chakelane displaced peoples' camp, is not interested in her plight.

"Either you pay or you don't. Don't waste my time, there are others here," he shouts.

In front of Guvare's four 10-litre buckets of ice-cold water is a line of mothers, several of them pregnant. The heat is scorching and people are desperately thirsty.

More than 60000 people are living at the camp after floods devastated southern Mozambique, killing 80 people and displacing nearly 200000 two weeks ago.

A few metres from Guvare, other merchants run the same lucrative business: selling water that they get young children to collect.

"I am not ashamed . it is business and business is good," says Guvare. "I sell small cups of water for 30meticais (R10) . "

The traders, whose stalls are brimming with supplies, sell small tins of pilchards for 25MZM (R8), a bag of maize for 110MZM (R36), eggs at 6MZM (R2) each, a bar of soap for 300MZM (R100), charcoal for 400MZM (R133) and a small bottle of cooking oil for 250MZM (R83).

The average Mozambican family's annual income is R2 610.

"People will always come to me," says Guvare. "Not everyone here gets food and those who are really hungry will not wait for food to be delivered, which maybe happens once a day."

The camp, staffed by the UN and Red Cross, is the one from which South African humanitarian agency Gift of the Givers withdrew after discovering that its administrators and their families were on the list of aid beneficiaries.

"It is food from the UN . we get people to collect for us and then we sell it . we sell everything: food, oil, soaps, clothes, anything we can," says Guvare.

"Life is tough, even for us, but we have to survive and this is how we survive."

The woman he has yelled at eventually hands over a crumpled note, gratefully taking the cup, her young daughter gulping down the water.

Asked if he is not concerned about being caught selling aid that was intended to be free, Guvare says: "If I don't, someone else will, so it might as well be me."

Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman says his organisation delivers food direct to people in need.

"Though bartering will never be stopped, and we have no control over what people do with the aid once they receive it, we give direct to those in need and not administrators."

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