By Chrispin Inambao
The makeshift relocation centre at Schuckmannsburg for hundreds of flood-displaced people lacks pit latrines. Also, the conspicuous absence of water purification tablets to treat unsafe floodwater for domestic use compounds matters.
This is contained in the latest flood impact and needs assessment report compiled by the Regional Emergency Management Unit (REMU) for the Ministry of Health and Social Services at Katima Mulilo, in one of the regions badly affected by the floods.
Although there are adequate mosquito nets for flood victims, they still need water purification tablets and the Regional Governor Leonard Mwilima says the clinic at Schuckmannsburg is already surrounded by water, while medical supplies have to be transported through Mwandi in Zambia where even evacuation boats were rerouted.
Rescue authorities at REMU at Katima Mulilo have been working in tandem with the office of the District Commissioner at Sesheke, Zambia for the flood evacuation mission.
And plans are afoot to evacuate learners from Muzii Combined School to Dr Sam Nujoma Combined School at Kabbe, by transporting them through Mwandi, Zambia.
At Mbalasinte clinic, another area in the floodplain, there is only a single toilet for nursing staff and communities have none, and luckily malaria cases are still low.
The report says at Itomba clinic that is also surrounded by floodwater in the Kabbe constituency, there has been a remarkable upswing in the number of skin disorders such as scabies, sand worms, chickenpox and conjunctivitis.
It further says some villagers whose settlements are already cut off have heeded recent appeals from political and traditional leaderships and have left flooded catchment areas.
The clinic at Mbalasinte does not have water purification tablets, it was stated.
Meanwhile, Gabriel Kangowa, the Acting Director for the Emergency Management Unit (EMU) in his reaction to a story in which Mwilima complained about flood operations being entangled in alleged bureaucratic red tape at EMU, says his office has to get authorization from the National Emergency Management Committee (NEMC).
“This is not a delay caused by us, but there are procedures that need to be followed. We are simply not allowed to spend for the sake of spending, we have to get authorization from the relevant authorities,” he explained on why the process seems to take long.
“This thing of say the problem happens at eight, and you want money let’s say by twelve the same day, does not work. One has to have enough time to do all the necessary preparations and even to do all the costing,” he said.
REMU offices should present detailed reports to EMU stating what their needs are and how they want to implement suggested programmes to avoid unnecessary waste of time.
He said EMU has dispatched a team to the four flood-affected regions in the north, namely Ohangwena, Omusati, Oshana and Oshikoto where at least 4 000 people are displaced, and next week the team will travel to Caprivi to assess the situation there.
He said EMU advised all regions to create disaster funds to which businesses in tandem with Government could make contributions, but only Ohangwena has such a fund.
And since there has been an increase in the number of children who are coughing because a dirt road snakes near the relocation centre at Lusese, another site far from the bush path is being cleared for the relocation of the flood evacuation centre, said Kangowa.
Meanwhile, EMU has distributed pamphlets that give safety tips to flood victims.
One of the safety tips advises villagers to have preparedness and emergency plans which should include information on safe meeting places out of the flood-risk area, a contact person outside the flood-prone area, and plans for pets and livestock.
Plans should be inclusive of a neighbourhood safety plan that identifies people that may need extra help coupled with an emergency communication strategy in case family members are separated during a flood disaster because of work.
Villagers are also being told to prepare an emergency supply kit with stocks such as food, water, necessary medication, torches and batteries that could last for at least three days.
Other flood tips are to carry a battery-powered or wind-up radio that allows victims to access weather warnings and they are further told not to walk through flowing water as it notes drowning is the number one cause of flood deaths, especially flash floods.
It further says people affected by floods should be on the lookout for animals particularly snakes and crocodiles because “animals that have been flooded out of their homes may seek shelter in yours, while crocodiles can come closer to homesteads”.
The use of dugout canoes is discouraged as they could capsize leading to the drowning of occupants. People in these areas should be on the lookout as some areas are covered with debris, including broken bottles, while mud floors could be slippery.
Another safety tip is to boil drinking water or to treat it with purification tablets while animals moved to higher ground should be vaccinated as they may contract diseases.