Heavy Rains Pound Caprivi

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By Chrispin Inambao WINDHOEK Hundreds of villagers in the Sibbinda Constituency in Caprivi could possibly be evacuated to drier land because of continuous heavy rainfall that has partially flooded their villages, creating endless pools of water in an area that is not flood-prone. The uninterrupted showers are also said to have disrupted subsistence crop farming, while flattening dozens of the traditional mud-and-thatch huts. Flooding in that constituency is said to have affected at least 500 villagers. It is the first time in recent memory that Sibbinda, falling outside the boundaries of the traditional flood-prone constituency of Kabbe, is experiencing some flooding. The Regional Emergency Management Unit (REMU) at Katima Mulilo yesterday dispatched a fact-finding team to Sibbinda in the Sibbinda Constituency after it held an emergency session to address the crisis. New Era was informed that the team consisted of a tribal leader, the Councillor for Sibbinda Felix Mukupi and the Chief Regional Executive Officer in the Caprivi Regional Council, Raymond Matiti. The acting Regional Governor Leonard Mwilima, who confirmed the flooding, and other REMU officials in REMU were also notified about the unfolding crisis. Before departing for the flood-hit area, Matiti said the team would ascertain how many villagers are affected and what kind of humanitarian assistance they may need. *And bad luck appears to torment relief food distribution officials in the Caprivi Region where apart from looming floods, another consignment consisting of a dozen bags of maize meal earmarked for the needy was recently declared inedible by a health inspector. The ruined bags were spoilt by the heavy rains pouring in the Caprivi Region while being transported from Windhoek to a warehouse at Katima Military Base, from where the remaining 1 229 bags of maize meal each weighing 12,5 kg have been distributed. During an inspection undertaken by Fredrick Sezuni, the environmental assistant health officer, 19 of the bags were found open though he said they were edible. In the report addressed to Matiti and copied to Mwilima it was indicated nine of the bags earmarked for the San community in the Caprivi “went missing”. Sezuni recommended that since the warehouse at the Katima Military Base “does not fully comply with the specifications for a warehouse as per requirements of the general health regulations….” he is of the expert opinion that the maize meal should be kept there for a period not exceeding three months. Though the amount of food spoilt this time pales into insignificance when compared to the 230 tonnes of drought relief food that got rotten in a warehouse at M’pacha Military Base, it appears this time blame cannot be apportioned to human error but to the wet weather. The M’pacha food debacle – that happened when so many villagers were in need of food aid as a result of a massive crop failure on the one hand and a ruinous flood on the other, precipitated a huge public outcry and it even featured in Cabinet meetings. And the verdict was that several people among the politicians and members of REMU were guilty of gross negligence. But so far only the Caprivi Regional Governor Bernard Sibalatani, who also doubles as REMU’s chairman in the region was recently suspended without pay for at least a month while his alleged accomplices in the alleged offence remain scot-free. In a development related to heavy rainfall, the level of the Zambezi stood at 1,59 metres yesterday when compared to 1,80 metres gauged on a corresponding date last year and the 2,11 metres measured on the same date in 2004. According to Vincent Simana the Senior Water Research Technician in the Division of Water Environment in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, the Zambezi River peaked at 3,20 metres last year while the highest notch recorded in 2004 was a record 7,04 metres. He attributed the low water level to overcast conditions but he hastily warned that the water level would rise dramatically once the skies are bereft of any rain-bearing clouds. Some areas in the low-lying areas of the region, including Muzii, Ikaba and Nankuntwe can now only be accessed with all-terrain, 4×4 vehicles. Though a bumper harvest is expected some villagers are worried that if the present pattern of rainfall persists, it could affect the growth of maize and other crops, most probably ruining them.