By Representative LaKeshia Myers
In 2005, I was sitting in my dorm room in Mississippi, when the campus lost power. On our campus trees were decimated, shingles flew off the roof of the gym and downed power lines caused an electrical fire that was quickly put out.
This was the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and while I was uncomfortable, my temporary discomfort was nothing compared to the harrowing sights of people on rooftops yelling for help, homes completely ravaged by water, corpses floating down city streets, and throngs of stranded citizens waiting for help in the city of New Orleans. I was lucky our campus suffered minimal structural damage and I had a car, enough gas to make it north to Memphis, TN, and parents who had the means to get me to safety.
I was reminded of Hurricane Katrina this week when I learned of Tropical Cyclone Idai, one of the worst tropical cyclones on record to affect the Southern Hemisphere. The long-lived storm caused catastrophic damage in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, leaving more than 1,000 people dead and thousands more missing.
Just as the victims of Katrina were weary, tired, and in desperate need of assistance, so are the survivors of Cyclone Idai. Homes are destroyed, food is scarce and the deceased are still being located under rubble, trash and mud. All eerily reminiscent of the post-Katrina New Orleans, where thousands laid in wait for recue and aid.
Just as Americans were outraged at the unexplainably slow response to the survivors of Katrina, I have noticed the same has been evident with the rescue and relief effort for Mozambique. The cyclone made landfall on March 4, but the United States dedicated $33 million dollars of humanitarian aid (to be distributed through the USAID) on April 3. This is seemingly much longer than other worldwide disaster relief efforts.
There has also been a lack of coverage by American media outlets. All of this has made me question the current administration’s response to disaster relief in countries where the population is primarily poor people of color.
Economically, Mozambique, like the city of New Orleans, has a large export economy. Mozambique’s agricultural infrastructure has been impacted due to extreme flooding. Crop loss, constant rain and mud have made it impossible to farm in the country, which directly impacts twenty-three million people in the country.
Mozambique only recently began to have a stabilized GDP and political stability since gaining independence in 1975. Just as the American economy suffered with price fluctuations for fuel and increased prices for seafood and sugar post-Katrina, the world market for corn, gasoline, cashews, and tobacco will reel from the effects of the cyclone.
I find it highly ironic we have this example of American charity on full display during this the Lenten season. A time when people of Christian faith reflect on the life of Christ and recall his commandment to love one another. I can only hope this administration remembers, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). Because we never know, we may again be in need of the charity of another and I hope the well won’t have run dry.