May 9, 2003

22 villages submerged by flooding

Red Cross officials have described the situation in Namibia's north eastern Caprivi region as "very serious" after floods from the raging Zambezi River submerged settlements and schools. Two people have already died in the floods.

The Emergency Management Unit (EMU) on May 9 dispatched a team to assess the floods. Humanitarian agents from the Namibia Red Cross Society, assisted by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from Botswana, are also in the area assessing the situation. Around 30 metric tonnes of maize meal is being sent to the flood victims.

According to the Red Cross, 13 schools have been closed. Villagers "have also experienced extensive losses of livestock through drowning or falling prey to crocodiles". In all, 8 600 villagers and their livestock are trapped and exposed to crocodile attacks on small islands with limited grazing, the society reported. They are unable to drive their livestock to higher ground because escape routes are blocked by the flooding. "The impact of the floods has been exacerbated by the rising levels of the Zambezi River that stands at 6,60 m compared to normal readings of 6,0. The floods ... have now left about 22 villages submerged or surrounded by water," reported the humanitarian agency.

Reports, compiled through assessment missions, indicate that the victims are in dire need of basic provisions including transport; boats; tents; mattresses; blankets; fishing nets; and mosquito nets. There is also a serious shortage of food because most of the fields due to be harvested were flooded. "There is an urgent need to airlift victims, who are trapped by the flood, to higher grounds. However, the stumbling block according to the assessment survey could be a fear of over-grazing, as some residents on higher grounds have already started complaining about accommodating flood victims and their livestock," the Red Cross said.

Transport is another serious concern. All the flooded areas are inaccessible by road. The assessment team is also experiencing transport problems, as they are relying on only one vehicle, according to the Red Cross. Although inhabitants of eastern Caprivi are accustomed to annual floods in the area from April to August, this year's flooding is reported to be the worst in about 21 years. "This is not your normal flood situation," remarked one official. An outbreak of water-borne diseases is feared because of the pools of stagnant water that have accumulated in certain areas. The flooding follows a drought in the Caprivi which was already expected to cut this season's harvest. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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