Namibia: Life in a flood camp
LUSESE - Multitudes of barefooted and bare-chested children scamper noisily around, chasing after a plastic ball, while groups of women hand-wash piles of dirty laundry.
Some women could be seen cooking thick porridge later dished out for their husbands and offspring, served either with meat or fresh-water fish caught from nearby streams.
Had it not been for the black plastic and heavy canvas tents, this scene could easily be mistaken for an African village and not Camp A, a centre for flood-displaced victims.
Camp A at Lusese is crowded with over 500 people from all walks of life who were recently displaced by record floods that swamped their villages at Ihaha, Iivilivinzi, Itomba, Mbalasinte, Kasika, Nakabolelwa and from Masikili among others.
Despondent officials in Katima Mulilo tried to warn villagers after realising the water was rising at a rapid rate and that the watermark surpassed previous levels by far.
But many of the villagers wrongly assumed they could cope with the floods, as they have done in the past only for the rapidly rising water to overwhelm their huts and granaries.
The massive flooding described as 'dire' by a UN agency brought large-scale ruin and wreaked havoc on a scale unseen for generations, flooding areas previously spared from floods for generations and destroying hundreds of mud-and-thatch huts.
The dead have also not been spared by this year's floods that submerged graveyards.
Hundreds of cattle that could not be driven to upper, dry land on time are marooned on small islands that are getting flooded inch by inch and villagers fear the worst.
Nature seems to have collaborated because the current flooding was caused by heavy rains and a sea of water overflowing both from the Zambezi and Chobe rivers.
Thirty-four-year-old Macbright Mabuku, appointed camp manager at Camp A, says his village at Masikili sandwiched between Ngoma and Nakabolelwa got flooded on March 09 and by March 28, he and his seven-year-old daughter Mumbela Muwela and other villagers were evacuated by boat to Ngoma. After the boat trip, they were trucked to Camp A at Lusese, where they hope they will be given flood rations in the form of maize meal, cooking oil, sugar, salt and canned pilchards.
Though members of the Regional Emergency Management Unit (REMU) and several humanitarian organizations such as the Namibia Red Cross Society occasionally visit the flood-displaced at Camp A, the distribution of flood relief aid is yet to start.
The only assistance availed to flood victims are treated mosquito nets, tents and a communal tap that was erected for them though some still sleep in the open because they have yet to be allocated tents, according to the volunteer camp manager.
"We have not yet received any of the flood relief food because the people expected to give us the food are nowhere to be seen," substantiated Shoni Benedict Zambwe, who was evacuated by REMU from Iivilivinzi and was appointed assistant camp manager.
Pit latrines were also only installed recently at the camp, forcing its inhabitants to relieve themselves in nearby bushes. Another area of concern is an escalation in the number of thefts at the camp, such as an incident in which an elderly woman lost her identity documents including the card she uses to draw a monthly State pension.
The elderly victim lost her goods upon her arrival at the camp on March 24 2009.
"We are used to floods but I have never seen anything like this," quips the single-parent Mabuku, who says he has been deprived of shelter and an entire harvest.
Among the crops that villagers such as Mabuku have lost due to flooding is an entire harvest of maize, sorghum, millet, watermelon, groundnuts and pumpkins.
Villagers such as Bernard Sikasola from Luchindo, an area where a sacred, royal graveyard for the Masubia tribe is located, reportedly lost several of his cattle to floods.
But despite the heartache caused each year by floods, Mabuku appears not receptive to Government's plans to possibly relocate them permanently as he says he will lose his ancestral land. He also says if they are to be relocated they will be deprived of access to food such as a fish-rich diet and potato-like tubers that seasonally grow in swampy areas in the flood-plains that also provide good pastures for free-ranging cattle.
Another reason why they do not warm up to this plan is that such a planned relocation could just bring about land disputes with those relocated being seen as "outsiders".