Caprivi flood victims are homesick

from New Era
Published on 29 May 2013 View Original

29 May 2013 - Story by George Sanzila

...complain they need more help

KABBE – Some of the villagers displaced by floods in the Caprivi Region want to return to their villages claiming they are not receiving enough food in the relocation camps.

More than 700 people displaced by floods from Nankuntwe – one of the settlements located in the epicentre of the flood plains – are currently sheltered at one of the resettlement camps for flood victims in Kabbe area. Camp manager for Nankuntwe, Lumba Kabuku, whose patience seems to have run out was frustrated over what she termed mistreatment and inadequate rations. “We just want to go back. Government must prepare to take us back. Some people have even left. Imagine you are given a single 12.5 kg bag of maize meal for the entire month with nothing else, no cooking oil or relish,” lamented the camp manager.

“When we were brought here they also dumped us in Zambia for three days with no food or shelter, while we waited for transport,” Kabuku told New Era at Kabbe. She further said the lack of food in the camp is affecting people who are on anti-retroviral treatment. “Those on ARVs have even changed for the worse now; their health has been affected compared to before. Their CD4 count has gone down. In the past they used to give us cooking oil and tinned fish, but now they are saying the government is tired,” said a disappointed Kabuku.

Kabuku further alleged some officials in the regional council misappropriated money meant for flood victims, resulting in the present inadequate food rations. “During floods you will see a lot of regional council staff and at the end of it most of them will be driving cars. We won’t even be given recovery money when we go back, for us to rebuild our lives. If it wasn’t for our learners, we would not have agreed to relocate,” stressed a defiant Kabuku.

As part of efforts to curtail the effects of floods, Kabuku feels the initiative of elevating areas by filling them with sand should be taken seriously. “I don’t know why they are not taking the initiative of elevating our areas seriously. They should pay people to do it as this will reduce the number of people who relocate during floods,” she suggested. Learners are also not spared from the deprivations in the Nankutwe camp, with complaints such as a lack of desks, chairs and electricity.

“As you can see, there are no desks here and chairs, the tents are not conducive. Its winter and it’s cold inside the tents and when the wind blows normal teaching is affected. The generator is also broken, so there’s no electricity,” said a teacher who requested anonymity. Close to 2000 flood victims find themselves far away from their homes living in tents. Makeshift schools and classes have been set up in the camps where teachers are also accommodated.

Kabbe, located east of Katima Mulilo, has welcomed residents of villages such as Ikaba and Nankutwe who are being sheltered by government in two makeshift camps. Life appears normal and even carefree for most residents as the chatter and laughter reverberates across the tented camps. Children continue to play without the slightest hint of worry, with domesticated animals such as dogs and chickens wandering from tent to tent in search of food, but underneath all that is a simmering discontent with conditions in the camp.

About 142 tents can be seen dotted all over the vast space. Mwala Masule has been given the daunting task of managing what is known as Kabbe Camp B for residents from Ikaba. “We came in March when the flooding was not so severe. The total population we have in this camp is 750, including learners who are about 346 from pre-school to Grade 10,” Masule said.

He raised concern over the conditions under which learners are taught in the camp. “Our children are not learning well, there is a lack of teachers and as you can see there are no desks in some classes,” complained Masule.

Organizations such as the Namibia Red Cross Society help flood victims with hygiene kits, blankets and water purification tablets, but residents say these are not enough. When approached for comment, Raphael Mbala the councillor of the Kabbe Constituency and chairperson of the Caprivi Regional Council, who has just returned from a visit to Europe, said the Office of the Prime Minister was made aware of the concerns and his office is awaiting a response.

“We have already sent them the number of people in relocation camps, specifically on the lack of food. The delay is with the Office of the Prime Minister. With the rebuilding of damaged houses and other facilities such as roads in flood-prone villages, the Office of the Prime Minister is not giving money for that, that’s the answer we are getting,” responded Mbala. Mbala further said the programme of elevating areas is still in the process of being finalised, as certain procedures have to be followed.

“We were requested to ask people themselves regarding the programme. A feasibility study, an environmental impact assessment study and costing has to be done. Currently we are still consulting the traditional authorities regarding the matter,” he said. With floodwaters subsiding, flood victims are likely to be relocated back to their villages in June after an assessment has been conducted, according to officials of the Caprivi Regional Council.

Floods affect thousands of people annually in the flood-prone areas of eastern Caprivi, where most villages are located close to the Zambezi River forcing many to relocate to higher ground together with their livestock when flooding occurs.