Botswana + 3 more

Southern Africa - Floods Fact Sheet #18, Fiscal Year (FY) 2000

Situation Report
Originally published

Regional Overview

Regional forecasts continue to predict showers rather than heavy rains in the next few days. On March 17, the USAID/Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) reported that the Save river level has decreased since March 16. However, roads are still cut off in Vilanculos and other areas.

Concerns about the condition of Chicamba dam, which feeds into the Buzi river, spurred an assessment that took place March 17. The assessment indicated that despite some evidence of erosion, the dam is not in danger of collapse. The floodgates are reportedly wide open and are releasing water into the Revue river, a tributary of the Buzi, at the rate of 400 cubic meters per second. Most of the flooding in Buzi was due to releases from Chicamba dam.

According to USAID/DART, rains are expected to continue in Maputo and Gaza as well as in northern and central Mozambique through March 25.


Floodwaters: On March 17, Buzi town was reported to be inundated with water. According to the field officer, the water level in town remains ankle-deep. Local officials are still urging residents to move town residents to the nearby accommodation center at Guadaguada. Nonetheless, the population of the Guadaguada accommodation center has decreased as residents have either returned home or sought accommodation elsewhere.

Overall, the USAID/OFDA Field Officer in Beira reported March 18 that the water levels on the Buzi river are receding. Due to rainfall in Swaziland, the Umbeluzi river is no longer decreasing. However, its level is stable. The Incomati river has registered a one-meter increase in the past 24 hours. The Columane dam reportedly began discharging water on March 17.

Water levels of the Limpopo river continue to decrease, but a flood situation continues to exist. The Zambezi river level has reportedly decreased at Caia and Tete.

The Government of Mozambique (GRM) officials reported March 17 that recent rains in Maputo have worsened the situation in several accommodation centers. Transfer of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from these centers to a new center at Congolote is now a priority. More tents are needed, as well as water/sanitation distribution points. The GRM's Ministry of Health (MOH) has appealed for assistance to transfer the affected IDPs.

USAID/Maputo staff continued rapid assessments of accommodation centers, visiting one in Maputo and three in Marracuene district (Maputo province) on March 16. Food was identified as an urgent need in three of these centers. The fourth, accommodating only 74 people, had a one-week food stock. IDPs in this site are constructing small houses and obtaining water from a nearby factory.

Shelter: A four-month shelter program is being developed to assist the resettlement of roughly 50,000 flood-displaced families. The program will provide minimum shelter requirements in order to catalyze the recovery of private sector activity. The proposed assistance package consists of 12 roofing sheets, 25 wood poles, and one kilogram of roofing nails and tie wire. Procedures for registering have been identified. Differentiated packages (urban vs. rural families) or cash supplements to the basic package are proposed as possible variations. No budget has yet been approved.

Health: The MOH has appealed for tents and clothing for health personnel in some Inhambane and Gaza accommodation centers. The MOH is concerned that these personnel, themselves IDPs, may not be able to continue working in the IDP centers if some assistance is not provided to them.

In Maputo, 81 new cases of suspected cholera were reported, with one death. The MOH expects to provide detailed epidemiological information on a weekly basis. No new epidemiological data was received from Sofala/Beira.

Water and Sanitation: Preliminary findings from a USAID-funded assessment of the water/sanitation and electricity situation in Chokwe suggest that basic services can be restored at a cost of $100,000.

Planned distribution of sanitary kits and a hygiene health education campaign began on March 16 in accommodation centers in Maputo. These activities will be extended to Chiacalane and Macia in the next few days.

A current priority is high-capacity pumps to drain water from Chokwe and Xai Xai cities. These items are available but are waiting to be transported from a South African airbase.

Food and Agriculture: A joint assessment of food needs and the agriculture situation is to be conducted countrywide in mid-April by the GRM, the UN, NGOs and donors. The assessment will feed into a donors' conference tentatively scheduled for late April in Italy.

A second appeal for seeds and tools is expected to be announced in the coming days, by which time an assessment of the response to the first appeal will be available. About 140,000 hectares of cultivated area were affected by the flooding.

Transport/Logistics: On March 16, the joint operations from Maputo delivered 153 MT of cargo and 290 passengers. Of this total, USAID-funded Air Serv assisted in moving nine MT of cargo and 98 passengers. The remaining were delivered by military and commercial aircraft.

Operations in Beira continued to be severely impeded on March 16 due to weather and the inability of the German C-160s to deliver large quantities of cargo planned for Chibuto. (The Chibuto airstrip cannot at present support these planes.) This situation has created a backlog of cargo, including a water/sanitation installation destined for Chibuto which alone amounts to 80 MT of cargo.

The UN-Joint Logistics Operations Center (JLOC) may transport these supplies to Chibuto via helicopter. The JLOC is urging aid agencies to better utilize roads as they become available to position stocks at more outlying distribution points from which they can be finally delivered via helicopter.

Affected Numbers: The GRM estimates 1.2 million people have been affected by flooding. Of the total figure, about 330,000 people are currently housed in accommodation centers, and about 400,000 IDPs remain outside of accommodation centers. An additional 335,000 people remain seriously affected. (About 900,000 people are also indirectly affected, according to the GRM.) According to aid agencies, the death toll, currently near 500, is expected to rise after the waters recede.

The GRM's National Disaster Management Institute (INGC) reported March 20 that there are a total of 121 accommodation centers and isolated areas, with a total population of 463,000.

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Response:

To date, USAID has provided $13.7 million in response to the flood crisis in southern Africa.

USAID/OFDA Director H. Roy Williams arrived in Mozambique March 20 and is expected to conduct a press briefing to provide details on USAID/OFDA's response to date and future plan of action soon after his arrival.

An additional USAID/DART program officer and information specialist also arrived in Mozambique recently.

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and the Search and Rescue (SAR) component of the USAID/DART (Miami-Dade) arrived in the US on March 19.

USAID/DART's primary focus now is assessing the short-term relief and rehabilitation needs in the region and reviewing proposals from NGOs. USAID/Maputo staff are also gathering information on the impact of the floods on the economy, trade, and tourism in Mozambique. Mission staff are assessing potential sites and approaches for post-disaster business recovery for possible funding by private firms.

On March 19, the USAID/DART health and water/sanitation teams developed a plan of action and assigned preliminary areas of focus. During the coming week, the teams will continue to gather information from important sources including GRM ministries, the INGC, WHO, and UNICEF. A health specialist and a water/sanitation specialist will deploy to Beira to better assess the situation in that area. The specialists plan to conduct targeted field visits based upon information gathered.

On March 18, the USAID/DART health and water/sanitation teams met with the USAID/Mozambique Deputy Mission Director and USAID/Mozambique health staff to coordinate USAID/OFDA's objectives with the longer-term objectives of USAID/Mozambique.

U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Response:

The US Joint Task Force Commander - Atlas Response (COMJTF-AR) reports that the current operational emphasis is to re-assess damaged roads and evaluate the progress of repairs subsequent to the recent rainfall.

A meeting with the US Ambassador to Mozambique Dean Curran is planned on March 20 to discuss the details of sustained helicopter in lieu of military support. The COMJTF-AR supports use of military aircraft until contract helicopters are in place.

Local Response:

The GRM's minister of health visited sites in Gaza on March 16 and noted that Chokwe is in urgent need of materials to clean out the sewers and a vehicle to transport the sewage to a safe dump site further away. USAID/DART will follow up on this issue. The minister also noted a need for a field hospital in Chokwe. A French organization may provide assistance for the hospital.

International Response:

Information on donor activities and international response to date is available at

Distribution of seed kits donated by the Italian government is expected to begin on March 20 for 60,000 flood-affected families. Lutheran World Federation will assist in distributing some of the seeds to 10,000 families in Chokwe.

British helicopters, assisting with the delivery of relief supplies, were due to start leaving Mozambique on March 19 due to increased overland access. Germany also is expected to scale down its air operations in the coming days, leaving U.S. and South African helicopters as the primary participants in air deliveries.


A USAID/Office of Food for Peace (FFP) representative recently visited Chipinge district in the flood-hit province of Manicaland. Local authorities in Chipinge have documented that 90,000 people (or one-fourth of the district's population) require food assistance for up to one year. Local authorities expect food distributions may need to continue until the next harvest in August but have requested food for only six months. Local authorities have also provided the central government with lists for urgently needed medicines.

To date, the Red Cross, World Vision and Christian Care have provided food. A local farmer cooperative has also made some farmer-to-farmer distributions. Telephone lines and electrical power have reportedly been restored in Chipinge, and fuel has been provided.

According to the USAID/FFP officer, communities in the floodplains of the Save and Tanganda rivers were severely affected. Crops that had been planted or homes that had been constructed have either been swept away or buried under mud and sand. The road into Chipinge had been damaged or blocked in five different places.

Floods occurred in Chipinge district last year, although of a much lesser magnitude. Moreover, before this year's flooding struck, the district was facing a drought and had considered asking for drought relief.

Many displaced people reportedly have refused to return home and wish to be relocated due to fears that flooding will re-occur.

According to the UN and Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) estimates, 100 people have died from the floods in Zimbabwe and 96,000 people have been directly affected, mostly in provinces located in southern and eastern Zimbabwe.

Among the affected are 20,000 IDPs who are temporarily sheltered in camps and available local facilities. As many as 500,000 are also indirectly affected.


From March 16 - 17, a USAID/DART field officer conducted an overflight of southeastern Madagascar, along with four NGO staff from Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and John Snow Inc., as well as two Government of Madagascar (GOM) officials. The overflight revealed extensive damage to a key railway between Sahasanaka and Manampatrana. A massive rehabilitation program for the railway bed may be needed, especially through the construction of channels to carry away excess water from the railbeds. The railroad is expected to be opened in July.

From March 12 - 13, the USAID/DART field officer, accompanied by officials from USAID/Antananarivo, the UN World Food Program (WFP), and CRS, conducted both aerial and rapid on the ground assessments of affected areas in Madagascar. Areas assessed included: Morondava and Morombe (west); Mahanoro and Tamatave (east); and Maroantsetra and Andilamena (northeast).

Generally, the humanitarian situation in areas visited was serious but not at crisis level. Food was a priority in most areas visited, particularly in the lowland valleys at the mouth of the major rivers flowing into the Indian Ocean. Many people identified cholera and diarrhea diseases as concerns.

Access to markets and health centers seems to be a critical issue. People interviewed on the West Coast were especially concerned about access since water levels are not expected to recede until late June - July.

Mahanoro was severely affected by Cyclone Eline and the town still shows signs of wind damage. Morombe town experienced flooding before the cyclones and has been flooded since January. In Maroantsetra, local officials reported that 64,000 people are affected.

Given this initial rapid assessment, the greatest threat in the areas surveyed is not to life as a direct result of disease or starvation, but a threat to life from loss of livelihoods.

A health sector committee, comprising staff from GOM and international organizations, has organized four assessment teams. One of the teams, staffed by USAID/DART and CRS, is currently assessing the health situation in the southeast corridor, specifically in Manakara and Vohipeno. The other three teams will begin their work shortly in the east and the west. A USAID/DART water and sanitation specialist will participate as a member of the team that will be fielded to the western areas of Morondava, Mahabo, and Belo.

The USAID/DART water and sanitation specialist arrived in Madagascar on March 17 and is currently holding meetings with NGOs and GOM and other groups. USAID/DART field officers are currently reviewing several proposals to address the emergency food and health needs of the affected communities in Madagascar.

A USAID/FFP representative recently arrived in Madagascar and will report out on his findings soon.

The GOM's National Disaster Unit (CNS) logistics sub-committee reported that, as of March 16, a cumulative 164 MT of food and relief supplies have been delivered to targeted sites in the southeast, east, and northeast.

USAID/Antananarivo reports that MSF completed a rapid nutritional survey in Marolambo District and found that 11% of children are at risk of malnutrition and may need supplemental feeding. The results of the survey also indicate that five villages in the district are in need of basic supplies, food, clean water, and soap.

The UN Ofice for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported March 20 that 500,000 have been affected in Madagascar, including an estimated 42,000 who are in need of immediate assitance.

The CNS reports that some 200 people have died as a result of the storms.


USAID/DART field officers continue assessments in affected regions in Botswana and will provide their findings soon.

According to the Government of Botswana's National Disaster Committee, the northeastern part of Botswana was severely affected. The flooding affected 73,000 people and damaged secondary roads.

South Africa

Extensive flooding has severely affected the northeastern parts of South Africa and resulted in displacement of several small but isolated populations.

Total USG Assistance in the Region (to date)

USG Agency
Activities funded
Mozambique USAID/OFDA Medecins Sans Frontieres for emergency relief activities
USAID/OFDA Grant to WFP for the provision of relief commodities and logistical support.
USAID/OFDA Grant to Save the Children/U.S. for emergency health initiatives in Gaza Province, for approximately 55,000 beneficiaries.
USAID/OFDA 200 rolls of plastic sheeting, 6,000 water jugs, and 6,000 wool blankets from stockpiles via a DOD-funded aircraft to shelter 2,000 families.
USAID/OFDA Grant to Airserv for support to rescue operations and air transport.
USAID/OFDA Additional support for search and rescue and emergency relief operations
USAID/OFDA Local procurement of emergency food aid
USAID/OFDA Procurement and shipping of WHO emergency health kits
USAID/OFDA Procurement and shipping of WHO emergency health kits
USAID/FFP Emergency food relief
DOD/PKHA Transportation of relief commodities
USAID/OFDA Additional support for emergency relief operation
USAID/OFDA Grant to CARE for seeds and tools
USAID/OFDA Grant to World Relief for seeds and tools program targeting 26,260 families in Gara province
Botswana USAID/OFDA Procurement of emergency sanitation systems
Madagascar USAID/OFDA Grant to CRS to assist flooded areas
South Africa USAID/OFDA Grant to South African Red Cross for emergency supplies
Zimbabwe USAID/OFDA Grant to Zimbabwe Red Cross for emergency supplies
Total USAID/OFDA subtotal
Total USAID/FFP subtotal
*Total DOD
Note: A Presidential Drawdown Authority of up to $37.6 million has been authorized.

Regional Background

Higher than average rainfall, coupled with four consecutive days of torrential rains in early February caused severe flooding in several countries in the southern African region. Reports indicate that this is the worst flooding in the region in several decades.

Cyclone Leon-Eline passed through the southern Africa region over the week of February 20-26, bringing additional heavy rains and wind to already-affected areas. In early March, Tropical Depression Gloria crossed through Madagascar and drifted slowly westward through Mozambique, Tanzania, Malawi, northern Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia, causing additional flooding.

About 2 million people have been affected in the southern Africa region due to the flooding. The number of deaths in Mozambique, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe is now estimated at 800. This figure is expected to increase once assessments are completed.

Damage from the floods is extensive, isolating many areas and displacing populations in Mozambique, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa.

Public Donation Information

In the interest of effective coordination of public response, we encourage concerned citizens to provide monetary donations to appropriate organizations. To find out about contributions, USAID encourages the public to access its web site at or to contact its Humanitarian Hotline at 1-800-USAID-Relief between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. The public can also directly contact those private voluntary organizations (PVOs) currently working in the region to provide monetary donations. Additionally, the public can contact InterAction, a coalition of voluntary humanitarian and development organizations that work overseas, via their web site ( Those interested in providing specific technical services or commodities should contact Volunteers in Technical Assistance's (VITA) Disaster Information Center for information and guidelines at (703) 276-1914.