Angola + 4 more

Southern Africa: Concerns over regional flooding

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JOHANNESBURG, 17 March (IRIN) - Concern is growing in Southern Africa over the risk of serious flooding during the current rainy season which could further exacerbate food shortages.
According to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Early Warning Unit, many rivers across the region are in flood, or threatening to spill their banks after recent heavy downpours.

The rising level of the Zambezi River is being anxiously watched. The river begins in the highlands of Angola and Zambia and flows along the eastern edge of Namibia's Caprivi Strip to the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe before flowing through Mozambique to the Indian Ocean.

Officials in the Caprivi reported this week that the water level of the Zambezi had passed the five metre mark and was rising by 13 to 15 centimetres every day.

"All we have at the moment are reports from farmers in areas along the Zambezi river who have complained that crops have been submerged because of the rise of water levels. Many farmers, who generally farm along the lower plains of the river, have had to move to higher plains for safety. This is sure to impact on the availability of food in the next few months," Richard Masundire, a spokesman for the SADC early warning unit, told IRIN.

Local media in Mozambique reported on Wednesday that over 3,000 people in the central Sofala province were facing severe food shortages due to destroyed crops caused by flood waters, after the Pungue river burst its banks two weeks ago.

There were also fears that transport between the Mozambican port of Beira and landlocked Zimbabwe could be affected if the river rose further.

Heavy rains in Angola destroyed 60 percent of croplands in the central province of Huambo, dashing hopes that many families would be food secure at the end of the current growing season. A quarter of the province's 1.5 million people will now need food aid.

Rains in Zimbabwe has resulted in the northeast and southeast areas of the country being placed under flood alert.

Zimbabwe has been the hardest hit by the regional food shortgaes with five million in need of food relief.

In Botswana reports indicate that islanders in the northwestern Okavango Delta have resisted advice from the authorities to vacate their islands, despite being surrounded by flood waters.

The SADC early warning unit stressed that the recent heavy rains in the Okavango basin were the highest observed in the last 20 years.

[ENDS]

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