April 3, 2011

Flood emergency declared

President Hifikepunye Pohamba has for the third consecutive year declared an emergency situation in Government's attempt to deal with unprecedented rains and flooding in the northern and, to a lesser extent, north-eastern parts of the country. To this end, Government has authorised N$30 million to immediately attend to the threatening crisis to human lives and widespread destruction of crops and infrastructure. This follows Cabinet deliberations on the waterlogged northern regions after a high-level delegation led by Prime Minister Nahas Angula to assess the affected regions over the weekend.

Pohamba said the survival of a large percentage of the population is under serious threat. "As a caring government, it is the duty of the State to ensure that our people do not go hungry," said Pohamba when he announced the state of emergency from State House. He emphasised, however, that Government could not do it alone, and made an appeal to all citizens and the international community to assist it to prevent the worsening of the crisis and its aftermath, like the rehabilitation of infrastructure like roads and bridges, schools and health facilities.

Members of the Namibia Defence Force place bags of sand to help hold back water. "I therefore have no option but to call on all our people to work together, to act only in the national interest and to offer fellow citizens where it is needed," Pohamba urged.
In Oshakati alone, more than 5.000 people have been placed in relocation centres, with more people being relocated daily. It has so far been reported that 62 people have drowned in the floodwaters, and 247 schools have closed, affecting more than 100.000 pupils. A health crisis is also looming, with 22 clinics under water or completely surrounded by water. Only 25 clinics are accessible, but only by four-wheel-drive vehicles. Pohamba said the rains had not only adversely affected economic activities, but with many fields under water since early this year, food production was diminished.
Large tracts of agricultural land are submerged, especially in the Caprivi, Omusati, Ohangwena and Oshana regions, leading to waterlogging and leaching, which lead to poor germination and stunted growth of maize, mahangu and other crops.

In addition to the expected heavy crop losses, livestock losses are also anticipated, given the fact that grazing areas are flooded. Where grazing was still available, it was in a very poor condition and could not sustain livestock farming in the affected areas, Pohamba said.

More floodwater is expected from Angola over the next two weeks. Government was hoping for good harvests at the start of the rainy season, but this hope has all but washed away. To increase crop production, Government has constructed grain silos in the north and assisted farmers to plant more. Various assistance schemes were similarly undertaken in several areas of agricultural activities like the provision of seed subsidies and assistance with ploughing and planting services. "We had high hopes that, with these increased efforts made by our people, we would not have a shortfall in staple food supplies during the 2010/2012 planting season." But, the President said, from the look of things, these efforts were to no avail due to the severe flooding. Government has asked all partners and stakeholders to work closely with the Prime Minister's office and Government's central co-ordinating unit for disaster management. (The Namibian)

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