After 20 Years Of War, Mozambicans Have Learned To Adapt With PM-Mozambique-War, Bjt
MALEMA, Mozambique (AP) _ When rebels kidnapped peanut farmer Ibraimo Danancha and stole the shirt off his back, he solved his problem in a manner familiar to many clothesless Mozambicans - he tailored an outfit from tree bark.
Danancha had worn the sturdy bark for about a month when he escaped from the guerrillas April 17 and turned up at the refugee camp in the village of Malema, in Nampula province.
The bark is rough and grating and none too comfortable, which also describes life in general for most of Mozambique’s 14.5 million people.
Mozambique’s 11-year-war for independence from Portugal (1964-75), and the current civil conflict which began in 1977, has left the country one of the poorest in the world despite extensive resources and fertile lands. For many, their lives have been reduced to a daily lesson in survival.
″It is God’s business,″ a Mozambican will say stoically when calamity strikes. ″That’s life,″ another will add.
Almost 6 million hungry people will need more than 900,000 tons of food aid in the next year, the government says. Rural villages throughout the country have been destroyed by guerrillas of the Mozambique National Resistance. Crops have been wiped out by droughts and floods in recent years.
In the cities, food is easier to find, but there are other difficulties. Beira, the second largest city, is without electricity during the day and the water system works only sporadically. In the capital of Maputo, public transportation consists of an occasional standing-room-only bus.
While the war has left Mozambique in shambles, it also has brought forth a certain resiliance and adaptability among its people.
In the northeastern city of Nampula, residents stage a flea-market every Sunday, displaying their talents for improvising.
The tops of discarded beer cans are cut off and turned into cups and flower pots. Used nails are meticulously straightened and resold to people rebuilding homes.
Condensed milk tins are used as the base for oil lamps. Small cracker boxes are turned into toy trains with rubber rings used as wheels. Clear plastic in men’s wallets is sought for use as protective covering for pictures hung in the home.
A stick attached to a can and some strings is transformed into a banjo. Shards of glass are collected and glued to the tops of walls as a security barrier.
In recent weeks, waves of grasshoppers have begun to appear in Nampula. Every night, residents with glass jars go out under street lights and catch the grasshoppers, which are fried and served as a protein-rich delicacy.
Women of limited means have learned to rely on ″capalanas,″ a multi- function wraparound garment.
It’s used primarily as an everyday dress, which can easily be loosened if the women becomes pregnant. It also can be wrapped and folded in a manner that creates a pouch to carry a child. At night, capalanas are employed as blankets.
″Most Mozambicans have a very slim understanding of what the war is about,″ said Rodney Sidloski, the CARE representative in Nampula. ″But they continue to bounce back and adapt no matter what happens.″
Nonetheless, most feel there is no substitute for returning to their village and their land.
Carlos Marques, 32, and other members of a refugee camp on Nampula’s outskirts walk more than 12 miles every morning to tend their fields. They walk back to the camp in the evenings, because the military can’t guarantee their security against nighttime guerrilla attacks.
″We can’t stay on the land until it is safe,″ said Marques. ″But I think we will go back. That day will come.″