By Bronwynne Jooste

Staff Reporter

Ten years ago, on March 1, a Mozambican woman gave birth to her daughter in a tree above raging floods.

As the world watched the drama unfolding, viewers saw a SA Defence Force crew airlifting the mother and her infant to safety.

Rosita Mabuiango's dramatic birth drew international attention to the havoc wreaked by the floods in Mozambique in 2000. Minutes after her delivery, a South African soldier was lowered into the tree and cut her umbilical cord.

And this week, the SANDF has committed itself to ensuring that Rosita will be cared for, for the rest of her life.

On Rosita, with her mother, Sofia Chubango, and her youngest sister, Cecilia, attended the Department of Defence's Budget Vote in Parliament.

After the briefing, Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said the SANDF would be contributing to Rosita's education fees and other costs.

Chubango had sought refuge from the floods in a tree together with her mother-in-law, after whom Rosita is named.

After three days the young woman, fatigued and hungry, delivered her baby.

Sisulu said: "She would not have been here today had it not been for the defence force. Rosita symbolises everything good about the army - the humanity, the technique, the values that are inculcated in the members of the defence force."

Speaking through a translator, Chubango said her life had changed forever the day images of her daughter and herself being rescued were beamed across the world.

About 800 people were killed during the floods, which lasted for over a month.

It's estimated that over 14 000 people were airlifted to safety by South African helicopters during the floods.

International aid sky-rocketed after the footage of Rosita's birth was beamed across the world.

The Mozambican government established trust funds for Rosita and moved her and her family to a new house.

Chubango and her daughter still seem shy, despite years of media attention.

"My life, my family's lives, changed forever the day she was born," said Chubango.

Rosita never strays too far from her mother and baby sister.

She enjoys school and her favourite subject is Portuguese.

Sisulu joked that she hoped that one day the country's laws would change and Rosita would be able to join the defence force. But the young girl has already made other plans.

"I want to become a doctor," she said.

She said she enjoyed travelling across the world, but said her favourite country was South Africa.