Namibia: Flood water keeps displaced in camps

News and Press Release
Originally published
JOHANNESBURG, 4 April 2007 (IRIN) - Water levels are still keeping thousands in camps after flooding in Namibia's northern Caprivi region in early March, and aid agencies warn it could take months before displaced residents can return home.

Torrential rain in neighbouring Angola caused the Zambezi River to burst its banks and spill onto the floodplains. Villages outside Katima Mulilo, regional capital of the Caprivi Strip, have been submerged, and parts of the constituencies of Kabbe, Linyanti and Kongola in eastern Caprivi are flooded.

"Water has been receding, but not enough for people to start going back to their homes," Tapiwa Gomo, Regional Information Officer of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC), told IRIN. "The latest reports are that water levels are rising again, and more rain is predicted for the next few days."

Gomo thought it would probably be another four to five months before the displaced people could safely return home. Around 5,000 have been relocated to four camps on higher ground to escape the water. Ironically, poor access to clean water could become a major issue, and the IFRC has warned that the water and sanitation situation in the camps needs to be addressed to avert possible outbreaks of disease.

Tamuka Chitemere, the IFRC regional disaster management technical manager, said the provision of water and sanitation had been delayed, but clean water was now being trucked in and stored in tanks. "But its not enough," she warned.

Health specialists say poor water facilities and hygiene practices in the camps could lead to outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera. "This has not happened yet, but we anticipate that this could happen if nothing is done," Chitemere stressed.

The Caprivi Strip is often flooded when Angola receives heavy downpours, most recently in 2004, when devastating floods displaced over 50,000 people.