Posted by: africanpressorganization | 6 April 2009

Southern Africa flooding to worsen, warns Red Cross



Southern Africa flooding to worsen, warns Red Cross


WINDHOEK, Namibia, April 6, 2009/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Flood conditions in Namibia’s north-eastern Caprivi region are set to worsen in the coming weeks as waters continue to make their way east along the Zambezi River Basin, fuelled by fresh rains in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

According to information from IFRC scientific partners such as NASA, flooding has begun around Lake Liambezi that straddles Namibia’s Caprivi Strip and Botswana. It is expected to continue for the next four to eight weeks. And although the levels of the Zambezi and Kavango Rivers have dropped in recent days, flooding in their respective floodplains continues to escalate.

“The issue here is that the land surrounding these rivers is so flat,” said Farid Abdulkadir, the IFRC’s Southern Africa head of disaster management. “A difference in river level of half a metre wouldn’t have a huge impact in a river valley, but in a flat floodplain area water will extend over very long distances.”

Approximately 550,000 people in Angola and Namibia have been affected so far, with reports now emerging of flood impacts in Zambia and Botswana.

The IFRC has issued an emergency appeal for 1.44 million Swiss Francs (USD 1.27 million / ZAR 12 million) to support flood affected communities in Namibia, and has released almost 315,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support local Red Cross operations in Angola and Zambia. Red Cross societies are currently reaching about 35,000 people with relief items, despite the serious logistical challenges posed by the huge amounts of water. Additional items have been dispatched from prepositioned stocks in Harare and Windhoek.

Concern is also turning further east, with fears that the water now saturating Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Botswana will make its way along the Zambezi to Mozambique. “We are worried now about this water building up further downstream, which might force the hand of authorities in terms of opening the Kariba Dam in Zimbabwe,” said Françoise Le Goff, the head of Southern Africa for the IFRC. “If this happens, then water could rush into Mozambique, flooding communities all the way to the Indian Ocean.”

To this end, warnings have already been disseminated to the Mozambique Red Cross and public authorities. In 2008, similar warnings saw tens of thousands of people evacuated in advance of severe flooding.

Later this year, the IFRC and the seven Southern African Red Cross societies that share the Zambezi (including Malawi which is regularly affected when Zambezi flood waters wash into the Shire River) will launch the Zambezi River Basin Initiative to prepare communities for the chronic challenges they face.


SOURCE : International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)


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