Namibia

Namibia: Red Cross funding runs dry as demand for water and sanitation increases in Caprivi

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By Tapiwa Gomo, Caprivi Strip

Almost three weeks after the mighty Zambezi River displaced over 15 000 in the Caprivi region, there are calls to urgently address the water and sanitation situation to avert any disease outbreaks in the camps.

A visit to Lisikili make-shift school which was established after some of the schools were closed due to flooding showed that pupils were receiving ration of less than ten liters of water.

Pupils queue for a sip of water in small containers which is sometimes passed from one student to another. But health specialists say this can cause contamination of the water leading to water-borne diseases. With such a situation children have not been able to bath which is contrary to hygiene practices.

"This school has about 513 pupils and yet today they got 5 000 liters of water," says one of the teachers. The number even increases as there are some parents who also get water from the same tanker.

There are plans to pipe water from a nearby borehole into a ten thousand litre tank which will be installed at the school; however the process has been very slow due to lack resources.

"This is a school where there was nothing. Our Red Cross team of volunteers has been able to install toilets at the school to improve on sanitation," says Tamuka Chitemere, the International Federation disaster technical manager.

In Lusese A and B camps, with a total current population of over 1200, people also get water each day or, if they do not, they need to walk about a kilometer to a nearby school where they queue for long hours to get water for domestic use. "We do not have adequate water in camp," says Joyce Kamwe, a mother of two and resident of Lusese A.

"If you miss water from the tanker, then you get water from about half a kilometer away from the camp. During peak hours there are long queues at the open well which is in one of the nearby communities."

Another ten thousand litre tank has been put in place but has not yet been connected owing to lack of equipment.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent launched an emergency appeal seeking USD 721,623 (€ 542,555) in cash, kind, or services to assist 15,000 beneficiaries (3,000 families) for six months part of which is meant to provide safe drinking water and sanitation at the four relocation sites of Impalila, Schuckmannsburg, Kabbe and Lusese. And the water and sanitation funding has dried up at a time when it is needed most.

"The government of Namibia, the Red Cross and other players have done well in trying to ensure that affected people have somewhere to start from, but there is an urgent need to address the water and sanitation situation in order to avert any disease outbreaks in the camps," says Tamuka Chitemere.

The Red Cross and the Namibian government have been able to install piped water in Kabbe C camp, while there was already water in Kabbe D camp.

The Namibia Red Cross with the support of the International Federation have distributed tarpaulins and plastic sheeting to compliment government efforts in providing temporary shelter. These are standard materials which have been used for temporary shelter in places like Sudan, Mozambique, Asia and many other disaster affected places in the world.

Over 1200 household have also received relief materials which include 31,500 water treatment sachets, 500 jerry cans, 250 mosquito nets, 500x250g soap and 2000 blankets.

Some families in Lusese A camp are only using water for cooking and abandon bathing. Practicing proper hygiene becomes difficult when there is inadequate water.

"We are bathing once a week because we do not have enough for domestic use," says Joyce Kamwe.

Due to heavy rains, the Zambezi River burst its banks and has caused flooding in the Namibian Caprivi flood plains. The floods have affected about 15, 000 people in four constituencies namely Kabbe, Katima Rural, Linyanti and Kongola. The government has evacuated people to higher ground whilst others have moved to temporary safer areas in the same area.

As the flood situation deteriorated many villages, fields, cattle and boreholes got submerged, and people were living in harsh conditions without shelter, food and safe drinking water.

The roads in the flood plains are still not passable. Muzii, Mpukano, Ikaba, Ivilivinzi, Malindi, Masikili, Nsundwa, Ioma, Mahundu and Nankutwe were the worst affected areas, where houses and fields are submerged in water.

"So far the Namibia Red Cross society with the support from the government, the International Federation and other partners has managed to ensure that the relief operations were done effectively to save human lives from the flooding," says Mrs. Razia Essack-Kauaria, the Secretary General of Namibia Red Cross. "We are therefore calling for urgent assistance to ensure that we contain the situation,"she concludes.