Angola + 7 more

IRIN-SA Weekly Round-up 9 covering the period 26 Feb-03 Mar 2000

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UNITED NATIONS
Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for Southern Africa
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e-mail: irin-sa@irin.org.za

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Regional flood report

Intermittent rainfall continued across large parts of the region this week exacerbating severe flooding which has left tens of thousands homeless and claimed scores of lives since early February.

Mozambique

Disaster assistance to Mozambique was stepped up this week amid recriminations over the allegedly tardy response of the international community to the scale of the flood emergency.

The death toll officially stands at 200 from the worst natural disaster in living memory, but aid officials and the government say it is much higher. Between 800,000 to 1 million people have lost their homes and are in urgent need of assistance as a result of the three week old emergency.

Flood waters and stranded communities remain the pressing concerns, Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) said in a report this week. In Chokwe, along the Save river in Mozambique's southern Gaza Province, over 25,000 people are still stranded on roofs of buildings and faced the imminent threat of a dam further upstream bursting, MSF said. Evacuation is essential for their safety, but there is a shortage of rescue helicopters and boats. In Macia, also in the south, where 30,000 people are displaced, a transit camp is home to 5,000 homeless people.

The capital of Gaza, Xai-Xai, is in a less critical situation so long as flood waters do not climb, but MSF said the amount of food aid being delivered "is not considered sufficient to meet the needs".

Water levels in the Incomati river in Maputo Province and the Save in Inhambane have fluctuated. But preliminary reports indicate that 60,000 people living along the Save have been affected, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said. In Sofala Province the situation in the Buzi basin is becoming "critical" as discharges from the Chicamaba dam along the Buzi river and heavy rainfall in Zimbabwe and Mozambique have increased the water level of the river.

In Manica, Sofala and Zambezia provinces, the Pungoe and Zambeze rivers show no signs of flooding, OCHA said. However, depending on the level of overflowing from Kariba dam in Zimbabwe, the Cahora Bassa dam in Mozambique would have to increase its discharging level, which would cause downstream flooding.

Another cyclone

Meanwhile, reports of a fresh cyclone over Madagascar threatening to bring more devastation to flood-stricken Mozambique next week should be treated with caution as its path is difficult to predict, weather forecasters told IRIN. Cyclone Gloria, currently lashing northern Madagascar with strong winds and heavy rain, is heading southwest into the Mozambican Channel. But whether it will continue on its path and hit Mozambique is "not yet clear", an agro-meteorologist at the Southern Africa Regional Early Warning Unit told IRIN. "Ninety-five percent of the time the cyclones curve back into the Indian Ocean."

Children hard hit by floods

Children have borne the brunt of the trauma of the flood disaster. The lucky ones have been rescued after being forced to abandon their homes. But many others have been separated from their parents, and an unknown number remain stranded and face the threat of malnutrition, UNICEF told IRIN this week.

According to UNICEF's Ian Mcleod, in the Mozambican capital, Maputo, of the estimated 900,000 people affected by the floods, 180,000 of these are children under five. Out of the 230,000 displaced people who have lost their homes, 46,000 are children.

International response

Donor governments this week pledged US $13.5 million for UN humanitarian operations in Mozambique. Actual contributions received as of Monday amounted to US $4.5 million, OCHA spokesman Donato Kiniger-Passigili told IRIN.

Details on the international response can be viewed at: http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/sa/countrystories/mozambique/20000229a.htm

BOTSWANA

Humanitarian Officials told IRIN that so far 66,178 people had been displaced by the floods, with 13 fatalities reported. Officials said that there was "still an urgent need" for tents, blankets and sanitary facilities.

"The government has so far asked for 3,000 tents and 78,000 blankets," an official said. He added that there had also been requests for mosquito nets, water treatment and chlorination facilities to provide people with fresh drinking water.

The latest USAID report on the regional floods said the main concerns identified were the possible outbreaks of diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and malaria.

ZIMBABWE

The deputy director of the government's Civil Protection Unit, Sibusisiwe Ndhlovu, told IRIN that preliminary figures showed 182,400 people had been displaced by the floods.

The rains have also caused significant damage to crops, roads, bridges and railways across the country. Zimbabwe's financial weekly 'The Financial Gazette' said this week that some fields had been washed away. Bongani Konke from the Zimbabwe's Farmers' Union said: "We are still trying to assess the level of damage but there are some areas that we can't even get to because of the flooding."

NAMIBIA

The town of Mariental, about 300 km south of the capital, Windhoek, was flooded this week, forcing authorities to evacuate several hundred people after water gushed from the nearby Hardap dam, the country's largest reservoir.

Flooding in Mariental has also forced the closure of the main road link between Windhoek and South Africa. Media reports from Namibia said that the rains had also washed away a section of the country's main railway line, disrupting train services to South Africa.

ZAMBIA

In Zambia, heavy flooding has forced the closure of the Livingstone-Sesheke road linking the southern and western parts of the country. Gilbert Mululu, deputy works and supply minister was quoted as saying: "The road is parallel to the Zambezi river and water has been spilling on to it, thereby flooding it at three points."

Meanwhile reports also said that there had been some flooding in the areas near the Kariba Dam. The spillway gates of the dam were opened at the weekend.

ANGOLA: Security problems affect humanitarian intervention

Deteriorating security in many areas of Angola since the beginning of the year have forced the postponement or cancellation of a number of planned humanitarian missions, according to a WFP report this week.

Insecurity along the road inland from the west coast port of Benguela was reported. In the neighbouring central highlands province of Huambo, eight local humanitarian workers were injured in an attack on 13 February on an aid project at Quissala, just three kilometres from Huambo, the country's second city.

In Lunda Norte Province, which borders the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the report cited increased military activity, while in Lunda Sul, fighting had resulted in fresh displacements. In the neighbouring province of Malanje, tension was reported in the Quifucussa-Bamza area. WFP also reported fighting in Moxico Province along the Zambian border. In the northern province of Uige, it said Caritas workers had to be evacuated last month from the town of Puri.

The number of people currently receiving assistance from WFP in Angola now totals 1,135,594. During the next month, they will receive 15,712.05 mt of food commodities. The food will go mainly to over a quarter of a million internally displaced persons in Malanje, 205,000 in Huambo, and just over 200,000 people in Bie.

ANGOLA: Social rehabilitation project underway

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Angolan government have agreed on the implementation of the second phase of a local community social rehabilitation initiative.

The project, drawing on a US $2.7 million trust fund and an additional US $400,000 from UNDP, is to focus on community-level schemes related to primary health care, education and basic infrastructure. The programme is aimed mainly at Angola's coastal provinces, that have remained relatively unaffected by the civil war.

ZIMBABWE: Fuel contract unaffected by flooding

South Africa's state-owned oil company SASOL said this week it did not foresee any logistical problems in supplying Zimbabwe with 35 percent of its fuel needs under a controversial new agreement, despite the impact of last week's floods on Southern Africa's transport infrastructure.

"There are no long-term problems as far as supply is concerned, the floods are subsiding," SASOL communications manager Alfonso Niemand told IRIN. The fuel supplies - gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel - would be transported by rail to Zimbabwe through the southern city of Bulawayo.

The fuel would come from SASOL's Sasolburg refinery, about 100 km east of Johannesburg. BP South Africa has also signed a deal to supply Zimbabwe with vehicle fuels from its refinery in Durban.

Meanwhile, the Botswana government has agreed to supply about 15 million litres of diesel and petrol to Zimbabwe to help ease that country's critical fuel shortage, a Botswana Foreign Affairs official told IRIN.

ZIMBABWE: Farm invasions allegedly 'orchestrated'

A wave of farm invasions by impoverished ex-combatants of the liberation war have hit white-owned estates across Zimbabwe in a campaign some analysts claim is being politically orchestrated by a government smarting from its referendum loss last month.

Some 26 farms have been stormed over the past three weeks by war veterans armed with axes, shovels and hoes. According to news reports, the ex-fighters said they were intent on dividing the land among themselves after the government's draft constitution - which would have allowed for the seizure of white-owned land for redistribution - was defeated in the 12-13 February referendum.

"They (white farmers) should either leave Zimbabwe or give up their land and go to stay in flats in town," war veterans leader Chenjerai Hunzvi was quoted as saying.

According to political scientist Masipule Sithole at the University of Zimbabwe, the farm action is "a ploy by the ruling party to regain lost popularity, but I doubt that it will work." He told IRIN he believed the campaign was being orchestrated by the government in the light of "the lack of a response from the authorities - they seem to condone it."

Meanwhile, Mugabe's government said this week that it plans to amend the constitution to give it the power to seize white-owned farms for resettlement without paying compensation. The amendment, published in a government Gazette this week, would hold Britain responsible for paying compensation to farmers whose land will be seized.

ZIMBABWE: IMF aid still on hold

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that it would not resume its budgetary support programme to Zimbabwe until the government of President Robert Mugabe adheres to economic reforms to kick-start economic growth and reduce poverty levels, the IMF said in a statement.

Following a week-long visit by IMF officials to Zimbabwe, the fund said it had advised the government that a reduction in state spending was vital to reduce the country's budget deficit and meet other reform targets.

BOTSWANA: Namibians flee Caprivi

An estimated 400 Namibians have fled into Botswana in recent weeks from the tense Caprivi Strip region bordering Angola. UNHCR Representative, Mengesha Kebede, told IRIN: "Namibian applicants have been saying that intimidation by armed elements forced them to flee to Botswana to seek political asylum."

Kebede said the Namibians were being housed at the Dukwe refugee camp in Botswana, well away from the border zone. Kebede said that in the most recent influx, 32 people crossed into Botswana last Thursday. An estimated 1,600 refugees are currently living in the Dukwe refugee camp. Their numbers include some 300 Angolans.

NAMIBIA: WFP called in to help refugees

UNHCR said it had called on WFP to begin supplying food to "desperate" Angolan refugees in Namibia's Osire camp, about 230 km north of the capital Windhoek.

Mengesha Kebede, UNHCR representative told IRIN: "We have memorandum of understanding with WFP which states that if the population exceeds 5,000 we usually call on WFP to assist, and so we have called on the food agency to take over the food sector."

Kebede said there were now 9,200 refugees at the camp and described the situation as "desperate", with one of the most pressing problems being inadequate nursing staff and water supplies.

NAMIBIA: Concern over new landmines

The Namibian Campaign to Ban Landmines (NCBL) on Wednesday expressed alarm at reports that landmines targeting people and vehicles are allegedly being planted on Namibian soil by warring Angolan government forces and UNITA rebels.

"The NCBL is very disturbed by and extremely alarmed at incidents of new use of anti-vehicle mines (AVMs) as well as anti-personnel mines (APMs) presumably planted on Namibian soil by the Angolan warring parties," said a statement issued by the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR). NSHR director, Phil ya Nangoloh, who is also the NCBL coordinator, added: "Since the arrival of Angolan forces in Namibia in November last year, mines have become a very serious menace to civilian lives especially in the now war-stricken northeastern border areas of the country."

ZAMBIA: Troops for Sierra Leone, DRC

Zambian President Frederick Chiluba has said his country will contribute troops for the peace-keeping missions in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

A report in the 'Times of Zambia' on Wednesday quoted him as saying 800 Zambian soldiers would be sent to Sierra Leone in coming weeks. He also said Zambia would be sending an unspecified number of soldiers to the DRC where the UN Security Council last week adopted a resolution for the initial deployment of 5,500 observers. Last year, Zambia contributed police officers to the international mission in Kosovo.

SOUTH AFRICA-MOZAMBIQUE: Migrants warned

Destitute Mozambicans tempted to leave their flood-ravaged country for neighbouring South Africa have been warned they will be deported if they enter the country, a government official told IRIN.

Claude Schravesande, the director of Admissions and Aliens Control, told IRIN this week that people fleeing natural disasters are not classified as refugees under international conventions on refugees. "We consider refugees as those people who flee their countries because of political persecution. Any aliens entering South Africa illegally will be sent back."

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Regional human rights report

In a detailed annual report on human rights practices in Southern Africa during the past year, the US Department of State has cited abuses ranging from torture and harsh or life-threatening prison conditions to extra-judicial killings and widespread discrimination against women.

Abuse of women and children was also high on the list of violations in nations across the region.

Although the report did not rank or compare the level of violations in one country against another, it was clear that Angola, which has been wracked by civil war for a quarter of a century since independence from Portugal in 1975, showed one of the poorest records. Botswana, the oldest independent democracy, maintained perhaps the best record, while South Africa, still shaking off the mantle of apartheid, clearly had to do more to combat racism, vigilante justice and police brutality.

IRIN has carried a summary of the key findings. This can be viewed at: https://reliefweb.int/IRIN

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Food situation uncertain

Overall prospects for cereal crops in southern Africa this year remain uncertain. As the region approaches the harvest season, a mixture of erratic rainfall, prolonged dry spells as well as excessive rains have taken their toll, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in its latest report

A detailed report can be viewed at: http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/sa/countrystories/other/20000302b.htm

AFRICA: De Beers guarantee "rebel free" diamonds

The South African diamond giant, De Beers said this week that its raw stones are to carry a guarantee that they are not being used to fund rebel groups fighting in Africa. De Beers said in a statement that its invoices would certify that none of its diamonds had been bought in breach of a resolution outlawing the purchase of diamonds from rebel fighters.

In the statement the company said that the guarantee would be introduced from 27 March. It would state: "The intake of diamonds being purchased by De Beers and its associated companies and being sold into the market through the sight system does not include any diamonds which come from any area in Africa controlled by forces rebelling against the legitimate and internationally recognised government of the relevant country."

The move has been described as a "very welcome" development by the London-based NGO, Global Witness.

Johannesburg, 3 March 14:00 GMT

[ENDS]

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