Botswana + 4 more

Southern Africa: Floods report 21 Mar 2000

JOHANNESBURG, 21 March (IRIN) - Clouds over much of southern Africa's flood zone threatened to bring more rain this week in a region where more than two million people have been affected.
According to the latest regional figures by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) the number of deaths in Mozambique, Madagascar and Zimbabwe is now estimated at 800. Extensive damage has isolated many areas causing displacements of people in all three countries as well as South Africa and Botswana, and this week, Malawi. So far USAID has provided US $13.7 million in response to the region's flood crisis.


The flood waters

Relief officials told IRIN on Tuesday that rains in neighbouring South Africa in recent days were expected to raise water levels in the southern Mozambique flood plains, especially in the Limpopo and Incomati Rivers.

Further north, near the second city of Beira, relief officials sent to check the condition of the Chicamba dam, which feeds into the Buzi river, reported that the dam was 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.

A USAID field officer said that the town of Buzi itself, was ankle-deep in flood water.

Overall humanitarian assistance

WFP spokeswoman Aya Schneorson told IRIN on Tuesday that a total of 3,876 mt of emergency relief food had been delivered to flood victims nationwide in Mozambique since 11 February. WFP said the total number of people currently targeted for assistance stood at 536,360. Of those, 263,117 live in the Limpopo flood plains of Gaza Province.

The government relief agency, the Instituto Nacional de Gestao de Calamidades (INGC), reported this week that there were now a total of 121 accommodation centres across the country. It also estimated that 1.2 million people had been affected by flooding.


The humanitarian community, working with the government relief agency, the Instituto Nacional de Gestao de Calamidades (INGC), is developing a four-month shelter programme to assist the resettlement of roughly 50,000 flood-displaced families.

USAID said the programme will provide minimum shelter requirements in order to catalyse 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 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.

Water and Sanitation

Preliminary findings from a USAID-funded assessment of the water, sanitation and electricity in Chokwe, one of the most heavily flooded areas of southern Mozambique, suggest that basic services can be restored at a cost of US $100,000.

"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," the report said.

Food and Agriculture

A joint assessment of food needs and the agriculture situation is to be conducted countrywide in mid-April by the government, UN agencies, NGOs and donors. The assessment will feed into a donors' conference to be held in Italy next month.

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

International Response

Distribution of seed kits donated by the Italian government started on Monday 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, started leaving Mozambique on March 19 as overland access improved. Germany also is expected to scale down its air operations in the coming days, leaving US and South African helicopters as the primary participants in air deliveries.


According to the UN and government 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.

Those affected include 20,000 displaced people who are temporarily sheltered in camps and available local facilities. As many as 500,000 are also indirectly affected.

The flood waters

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," it said. "Many displaced people reportedly have refused to return home and wish to be relocated due to fears that there will be more flooding."


A USAID/Office of Food for Peace (FFP) representative recently visited Chipinge district in the flood-hit province of Manicaland. Local authorities in Chipinge said that 90,000 people, making up a quarter of the district's population, would require food assistance for up to one year.

Local authorities said they 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.

The USAID report said 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.


The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Monday that of 500,000 people affected by the floods in Madagascar, 42,000 remain in need of immediate assistance.

The flood waters and their impact

OCHA reported that new areas in the northeast have been affected by flooding as a result of the accumulation of rains from cyclones Eline and Gloria. The districts of Sanbava, Antalaha and Maroantsetra have been particularly hit.

"Communities and villages in the following regions are cut off due to the flooding and need to be urgently reached by helicopter: Marolambo, Antanambao-Mananpotsy, Mahanoro, Andapa and Maroantsetra," the latest OCHA report said. The government relief commission, the Conseil national de secours (CNS), said the death toll in Madagascar remained at 200.

An aerial survey conducted by USAID, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and John Snow Inc., 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 rail beds. The railway is expected to be opened in July.

OCHA said the floods had affected crops, notably of rice, the main staple. In several communities in the region of Marolambo, food reserves are practically depleted. Many roads and bridges have been cut off and some villages are isolated by flood water, leaving many people reachable only by helicopter.


Last week USAID, WFP, and CRS, conducted both aerial and rapid on-the-ground assessments of affected areas in Madagascar. The areas included Morondava and Morombe in the west, Mahanoro and Toamasina in the east, and Maroantsetra and Andilamena in the northeast.

"Generally, the humanitarian situation in areas visited was serious but not at crisis level," USAID reported. "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."

It said access to markets and health centres was 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," the report said. Mahanoro was severely affected by Cyclone Eline last month 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," it said.


The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and UNICEF reported an increase in the incidence of illnesses, including malaria, diarrhoea and dysentery. The UNICEF Representative in Madagascar, Dr Sergio Soro told IRIN he was particularly worried about the increase in cholera and malaria.


WFP is the designated lead agency for logistics on behalf of the United Nations in-country team. A logistics committee has been meeting daily since the on-set of the floods under lead of the Government, with WFP leading on behalf of the United Nations.

The logistics needs, according to WFP are for two helicopters for cargo movement for 15 days, one cargo aircraft to preposition food in the east and the northeast for 10 days, three small flat-bottomed boats for the east coast, and fuel for air operations estimated at 100,000 litres per month. In this regard, on 19 March, OCHA issued an alert message for the mobilisation of two military and civil defense to assist in this operation.

OCHA said the following assets are available in-country but cannot be (further) utilized unless funding is forthcoming: One commercial helicopter (3 mt capacity), costing US $2,600 per hour; One Antonov of the Malagasy National Defense Force, which can be used against a contribution of US $4,500 per rotation between the capital and affected area.


Heavy rains have claimed at least three lives and left thousands homeless in the Northern KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, the South African Broadcasting Corporation reported on Tuesday.

It said the heavy downpours, which started late Friday night, have also cut off several areas from the outside world. Provincial minister of transport, Sbu Ndebele, visited some of the affected areas to assess the damage and determine what sort of relief could be offered to the affected communities. Ndebele promised to ask the provincial legislature for the affected areas to be declared disaster areas.

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


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.


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