Namibia : Situation in flooded Caprivi could worsen

Published: 15 March 2007 0:00 CET

Lisikili lies about 30 km from the north-eastern town of Katima Mulilo, in Namibia. Homes and schools are now completely immersed in deep waters and its inhabitants displaced.

“The situation is very bad, as you can see we have moved away from these waters, however our children need to go to school and even if the school is heavily flooded, we continue to take them by means of mikolo (wood dug-out canoes),” says Julia Situnda, a home-based care volunteer from Namibia Red Cross Society who assisted her community in their relocation efforts.

In this area, the community has made use of Red Cross tents from previous years and newly distributed tarpaulin sheets. “My people are sleeping in open spaces because we have no access to shelter. The tents although helpful, are just not enough.

Our crops have been destroyed, diseases are rife and the water is contaminated and dangerous for us to drink. The water purification sachets provided by the Namibia Red Cross Society are not enough and we sincerely appeal for more assistance,” explains Lisikili village’s headman, Imukusi Libongani.

“Red Cross mosquito tents are only given to children under 5 and to pregnant women, now what will happen if the Namibia Red Cross Society does not give mosquito nets to the elderly too? After all, it is the elderly who are looking after everyone in this community,” he adds.

People living with HIV and AIDS are also facing a difficult situation. The Caprivi region which has an HIV and AIDS infection rate of around 42.8% is the region with the highest HIV infection rate in Namibia.

As the Namibia Red Cross Society team travels further into Lisikili, we realize that the income generating activity projects have been flooded as well. With a considerable amount of crops lost, the situation is critical.

The Namibian government has begun its disaster response activities. Amongst others, the government has released a budget of N$10million for the flood operation.

The government has also mobilized trucks to lay sand alongside the road, in order to curb off the flood water and has begun relocation of affected people to safer sites, however some communities remain reluctant to leave their homes and fields behind, in that way compromising evacuation efforts.

The Namibian government has identified various sites to relocate communities. One of them is the Kabbe Camp C, in the Kabbe village. A team of Namibian Defense Force soldiers were at the site, assisted by local volunteers to clear the land for about 300 people. Evacuated people will be relocated to this camp for the next 4 to 5 months until the water in their villages subsides.

Relocated people will have to return to their flooded villages, because the land on this ground - temporarily given to them by the local headmen - is not fertile and will not be able to sustain life.

“This is the way they live, they cannot be expected to live on infertile ground and risk their livelihoods. It is unfortunate that they will have to return to their destroyed homes, but do they have a choice?” explains Cletius Mubita, the Caprivi regional development planner.

An estimated 4500 families need to be relocated. The Namibia Red Cross Society intends to target assistance to 3000 families. Basic relief items such as shelter materials, food and water are needed without delay.

The Society continues to assist the government with registration at relocation sites and distribution of relief items. On the other hand, with a confirmed number of 7 people who already lost their lives since the beginning of the floods, the situation could worsen and many lives could be at risk, if effective evacuation is not taking place immediately.

On February 26, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies released CHF 112,000 from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to help the Namibia Red Cross Society respond to parts of the needs.