JOHANNESBURG, 14 February (IRIN) -
Heavy rains across large swathes of Botswana, Mozambique and Swaziland
continued for the second week running on Monday, causing what officials
described as the worst flooding in the region in 50 years.
At the weekend, a five-member Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team sent by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) arrived in Mozambique to assist the government and the UN Resident Coordinator bring relief to tens of thousands of people whose homes were washed away.
UNDAC teams are composed of emergency management experts mobilised by OCHA during natural disasters. The mission to Mozambique is the 67th UNDAC mission since the team was formed in 1993.
Meanwhile, UNICEF said that it was working to prevent the outbreak and the spread of diseases such as cholera, malaria and diarrhoea among the flood victims, whom it said included some 30,000 children.
"Our chief concern right now is the threat of disease," said Mark Stirling, the UNICEF Representative in Mozambique. "There is a serious sanitation problem which is increasing the risk of cholera outbreaks. In addition, a number of diarrhoea and malaria cases have already been reported."
UNICEF said it had committed US $400 in emergency funds to support efforts by the government and various relief agencies. It said that immediate funding commitments included a shipment of essential drugs and medical supplies, distribution of safe water to communities and teaching and learning materials for about 30 schools where supplies had been washed away.
Flooding was reported in the district of Chokwe in the southern Gaza Province at the weekend, damaging farmland in the fertile Limpopo Valley. On Sunday it hit Chibuto district, cutting off a number of villages, including Malehice, the home village of President Joaquim Chissano.
South African media reports said on Monday that the main road between South Africa and the Mozambique capital, Maputo, had been repaired.
In Botswana, the government said it was considering declaring a national disaster. Andrew Sesinyi, spokesman in the president's office said at the weekend: "It may be necessary to declare a national disaster in order to seek assistance and allow for greater efficiency in the fight to save lives and alleviate suffering."
The government has appealed for "emergency humanitarian assistance", the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said. It added that information from the National Disaster Management Committee (NDMC) showed that 25,000 people had been affected and that up to 4,000 homes and been destroyed. A number of bridges and roads had also been washed away or flooded in recent days. The government has appealed for tents, blankets and food rations.
OCHA said that a number of dams in the country were filled to capacity and had started overflowing. They include the Shashe dam about 30 km south of Francistown, and the Bokaa dam 20 km north of the capital, Gaborone. Security forces and the police had started evacuating flood victims.
Meanwhile, Botswana media reports said that the landlocked country's only railway line, linking it with South Africa and Zimbabwe, had been washed away in two places. Heavy rains also affected telephone services across the country. More than 500 prisoners had to be evacuated from the Gaborone Central Prison because of flooding.
A spokesman for the Disaster Task Force in Swaziland told IRIN on Monday that there has been extensive damage to roads, bridges and basic infrastructure. "We have received a number of relief requests from people whose homes have been damaged or completely washed away. Most of these people are in the rural areas," he said.
He added that there had been damage to crops and that large sections of land had become water-logged. He said that the country had been expecting "a fairly good crop, but that situation has now changed".
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