The Zambezi River threatens thousands of families in five southern African countries

تم النشر: 12 فبراير 2007 0:00 CET

The Zambezi River which stretches from Angola to the Indian Ocean in Mozambique is threatening to displace thousands of families in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and Namibia following the heavy rains experienced in the last few weeks.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has released more than 270,000 Swiss Francs (US$ 216,000, euro 166,000) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund for Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia in the past few weeks. It may soon be calling for more financial support as the situation continues to deteriorate.

The Drought Monitoring Centre, a climate-based organization which receives rainfall data from all parts of the world, said the central sector of the Southern Africa region should expect occasional rains over the greater part of that area up until February 21.

The Zimbabwe Civil Protection Unit issued a statement warning that the water levels in Zambezi river were expected to continue rising from Kazungula to the confluence of Kariba dam. Usually if this area is flooded it also affects the Caprivi Strip in Namibia.

The statement also warned the river authorities, fishing companies, safari lodges and all those involved in water borne social activities to watch out for possible stronger and higher currents anticipate within a few days to come. The Zimbabwe Red Cross disaster team is already on standby. “We recently conduct some flood disaster preparedness workshops and our teams are ready to be deployed should the situation deteriorate,” says Mr. Desmond Mudombi, the disaster manager for Zimbabwe Red Cross society.

The latest developments in Mozambique have been a serious cause for concern. Reports indicated that floods have already killed 29 people and they are calls for international help to rescue more than 500,000 people threatened by the rising water. The government has already order people occupying the bank of the river to move to higher ground. The government fears that this could be more dramatic than 2000/2001 floods especially in the central region where the Zambezi River and its tributaries - the Shire and Revubue - have become swollen with waters from Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

“Our Red Cross societies in Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe are currently busy on the ground, especially in Mozambique and Angola where the situation is worse than any other country, the volunteers are raising awareness for people at grass root level to relocate in safer areas, providing first aid, heath education, water chlorination and several other important services in such an operation,” says Robert Kwesiga, the Programmes coordinator for the International Federation in southern Africa.

Malawi also experienced heavy rains from early January resulting in flooding in the Lower Shire region affecting the districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje. Malawi Red Cross Society together with other stakeholders conducted an assessment in the affected areas. A total of 20,061 households were affected when houses collapsed and several hectares of crops damaged.

The two districts have received some assistance from the Government and other stakeholders in terms of food and emergency kits. To date the International Federation has allocated Malawi Red Cross $ 71,000 to cater for shelter needs of the affected population, which include 2.500 tarpaulins, 3 large tents, 50 Plastic sheeting rolls and operational funds.

The torrential rains have so far caused extensive damage to crops and property in main parts of Zambia. The country has been receiving above normal rainfall which has negatively affected a number of households across the country, especially North western and Northern Provinces. Latest reports indicate that Luangwa River which passes through Lusaka province recently bursts its banks thereby affecting households along the banks. The only road linking Luangwa town to the rest of the country has been submerged thereby making the district inaccessible by road.

“Essential supplies to the district cannot be delivered, unless by air. If the situation continues for an extended period, the district will run out of essential supplies,” says Mr. Trust Hakulipa, the disaster manager for Zambia Red Cross society adding that the assessment team failed to affected people.

In Mpulungu, a total of 1,900 people have been affected and 369 houses collapsed, Zambia Red Cross volunteers have been on the ground providing relief to the affected people. Over 2,500 people were left homeless in Kapiri while in Solwezi 573 people had their houses swept away the floods. The Zambia Red Cross has so far dispatched a relief materials comprising of an assortment of relief items worth K77 million.

“Given the severity of the situation in Mozambique, we are now mobilizing our resources and deploying our disaster response expert team to support Mozambique Red Cross. Based on the findings of the needs assessment, we will obviously be calling for more resources to strengthen our support to our Red Cross societies responding to the emergencies,” says Françoise Le Goff, Head of the International Federation’s regional delegation in Harare, Zimbabwe.