June 4, 2003

Aid for flood victims

Trucks from the United Nations World Food Programme carrying 127 tons of urgently needed food arrived on June 4, in northeast Namibia, where thousands of people fled their homes after being hit by the worst flooding in decades.

"WFP's emergency assistance will contribute substantially to the efforts of the Government of Namibia in alleviating the desperate plight of those affected by the flooding in the Caprivi region," WFP Country Director for Namibia Francisco Roque Castro said, referring to the food dispatched from the agency's warehouse in southern Angola following a request from the Namibian Government. The food will assist 12,000 people in 22 villages who suffered the flooding after a period of prolonged torrential rainfall in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) burst the banks of the Zambezi River downstream in the northeastern part of Namibia.

Spanning more than 40 square kilometers, the floods destroyed large tracts of farmland and drowned many cattle, further undermining the Caprivi's fragile food security situation following a long severe drought in the region. The WFP supplies to the flood victims - which include maize, corn-soya-blend, vegetable oil and salt - are expected to last for about three months and will augment the Government rations.

Meanwhile, several schools that were seriously affected by the floods are to re-open. Teachers and students' mud-and-thatch sleeping quarters at Namiyundu, Nankuntwe, Mpukano and Muzii were submerged in flood water prompting education officials to consider delaying the re-opening of the institutions. At Nankuntwe up to eight huts, including the headmaster's homestead, were affected while at Muzii the number was three, according to a senior Ministry of Basic Education official.

Charles Sinvula, the Director of Education in the Caprivi ,who on Sunday visited the affected schools, listed the affected institutions as Lisikili, Isize, Sifuha, Malindi, Schuckmannsburg, Namiyundu, Nankuntwe, Muzii, Kasika, Itomba, Mpukano, Mbalasinte, Ivilivinzi, Nakabolelwa and Nsundwa. Several of the schools have been surrounded by water following the worst flooding in Caprivi for 21 years. Some students at Muzii will have to paddle for an hour in dug-out canoes to go to school and spend another hour on the water when heading home. At Nankuntwe students will have to spend an hour and twenty minutes journeying to the school and back to their villages while at Namiyundu some students will have to paddle for twenty minutes everyday. At Itomba in the Ikaba area makeshift boarding schools were constructed for students whose villages are far away from the combined school.

Sinvula said hippopotami were not a threat to students as the mammals do not like the shallow, swampy waters across which the students have to paddle each day. Sinvula said apart from a number of school feeding programmes that have been introduced for students in the flooded areas, pupils have also been recipients of maize meal, cooking oil and dried fish intended for flood victims. (United Nations, New York/The Namibian, Windhoek)

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