Thousands Still Displaced by Floods

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK – Most settlements in the flood-prone plains in the low-lying eastern Caprivi along the Zambezi River are still waterlogged and it remains unclear when the more than 7 000 displaced villagers would be relocated back to their homes. Although the flood situation is under control, the Chief Regional Officer Raymond Matiti said yesterday that relocation might only take place in August or September this year. He says all the displaced people are still in camps and relocation would only take place after the Regional Emergency Management Unit (REMU) has assessed the situation. Acting Director of the Directorate Emergency Management in the office of the Prime Minister Kangowa Kalimbwe shared the same sentiments, adding that findings from the recent assessment show that only Lisikili has water drying up. “The issue of going back has to be discussed with the chiefs in the areas and government. The wish of government is to have these people in tents until such a time when the flooded areas are dry and safe,” he added. About 7 544 registered beneficiaries remain in need of food assistance. Today a truck is expected to deliver 2 000 bags of 12,5 kilograms each of mealie meal in different flooded areas in the region. This is the first consignment of the 10 000 bags secured from a local supplier in Rundu, Kangowa said. Negotiations are also ongoing for Namibia to import from Zambia a nutrient-rich dried fish known as kapenta that is in abundance in that country. The decision might have been prompted by Caprivi’s proximity to Zambia and the fact that many people from Caprivi were exiled in in that country before independence and developed a taste for this particular nutrient source. “We are looking for fish. We have secured 3 000 x 20 kilogram bags of dried fish (kapenta) – we want them to have a variety in terms of relish,” said Kangowa. Three weeks ago, REMU supplied 200 boxes of curried tinned fish, 200 boxes of pickled fish and another 200 boxes of snoek. Katima Business Peoples’ Forum also donated tins of beans, vegetables and some blankets. Kangowa could not reveal the quantity of these items. The Namibia Red Cross Society report for April 2007 shows that although the water level of the Zambezi River is now decreasing and stood at 5.78 metres on April 18, 2007, the displaced people cannot return to their homes since villages in the flooded plains are still unreachable and houses are either destroyed or still partially flooded. Aerial assessments reveal that some villages are still under water and thus the relocated people are likely to stay in the relocation camps where they are currently being housed. The main challenge to the relief operation has been lack of resources due to a slow funding response to the flood emergency appeal. The Namibian government budgeted N$10 million for the flood operation and has been supportive of the Namibia Red Cross in purchasing relief items and providing transport (trucks and boats). The Red Cross, with support from government, has distributed non-food relief items (NFI) such as blankets, rigid jerry cans, tarpaulins, sachets of water treatment chemicals and soap to beneficiaries in the four relocation sites. The Red Cross has so far been able to assist more than 8 000 people within the relocation sites and other vulnerable communities. Due to a lack of resources, provision of tents has not been undertaken by the Namibia Red Cross. However, government has provided 233 family tents. The Namibia Red Cross has so far constructed 30 latrines out of the proposed 44. No disease outbreaks have been reported at the relocation sites. In March, the Namibia Red Cross through its International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies launched an appeal for approximately US$1.3 million to support Caprivi flood victims. The US$1 383 120.69 international federation joint emergency appeal sought to assist 1 000 households in Zambia and up to 3 000 households affected by the floods in the Caprivi. Efforts to get the amount of money sourced through this exercise proved fruitless. Due to heavy rains in Angola since December 2006, the Zambezi River burst its banks in February this year, causing flooding in the Caprivi. Floods are a perennial phenomenon in Caprivi, with devastating flooding experienced in 2004. However, this year’s floods are reported to be the worst since 1958. The floods have affected four constituencies, namely Kabbe, Katima Rural, Linyanti and Kongola. Many villages, fields, cattle and boreholes were submerged while nine people died from drowning, crocodile attacks and snakebites. Further, 11 schools were affected (with 1 120 pupils relocated to other schools on the higher grounds of Schuckmannsburg, Lusese and Kabbe) and roads in all the floodplains rendered impassable. In the Linyanti and Kongola constituencies, crops were submerged in water.