Namibia

"Overcoming the crisis"

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by Sven Ramones, 2011/05/10

After torrential rains that went down several weeks ago, the north of Namibia is struggling to deal with one of the worst floods that have hit the southwest African country during the past decades. Last Monday, on May 9, 2011, coordinator Jörg Eich set out for the border area surrounding Zambesi river in order to initiate first relief measures on behalf of humedica.

In the past, the professional engineer from Berlin had worked as a full-time employee at humedica. Furthermore, he had already acted as coordinator for a medical mission team of humedica in 2000, during a flood disaster in Mozambique.

Today, after several different foreign assignments, the father of four children can already look back on several years of experience as disaster relief assistant. We had the opportunity of holding a short interview with Jörg shortly before his departure.

Jörg, you are travelling to Namibia in order to organise relief measures for those affected by the flood disaster. Where exactly is your mission location?

The mission location is in the north of Namibia, close to the Angolan border. There, about 220,000 persons are currently being affected by the consequences of a large-scale flood. Sadly, the news about the floods in Namibia went completely unnoticed as they occurred in the shadow of the disaster in Japan and the crisis in Libya.

After torrential rainfalls entire regions were flooded; people living in those areas had to leave their homes and are now forced to live at refugee camps. Only now, about four weeks later, is the water receding slowly.

Now it is essential to help those affected to overcome the crisis after the flood until they will be able to return to their normal lives according to local conditions.

What will this help look like?

At first, we need to take stock in the affected regions and determine the people's needs. We definitely will distribute blankets and in particular now, at the beginning, also basic food. Later on, we could for example also distribute seeds in the framework of rehabilitation projects.

My task is to determine what people in the affected regions are lacking, what they need, what the medical situation looks like, and afterwards I will be responsible for preparing appropriate medical missions.

Doctor teams are urgently needed. Generally, one of the consequences of a disaster of this extent is an increase of the disease rate. Usually, infectious diseases, malaria and diarrhoea occur more frequently.

As large-scale floods always result in a contamination of the population's drinking water, we will also have to provide clean water.

I will assess the situation in Namibia also in order to find out which other relief organisations are already active in the country. Cooperation and coordination with other organisations is important for example for preventing a doubling of offers.

In this way we ensure that we offer our work in a region that has so far not been reached by relief organisations.

Apart from that, we can take relief goods to the country that are still lacking or have not yet been covered by other organisations. In this way relief organisations can complement each other.

Which are you expectations for the mission in Namibia?

Based on my earlier experiences, I am expecting it to be very hot and very humid. I suppose that there will be a large number of malaria mosquitoes due to the flood. I will need to be prepared also for this.

It will be hard work. Working days will by no means have less than twelve hours, maybe even more on some days.

But this is not the first time I am travelling to a crisis region. For the most part, I am looking forward to it, because it is hugely satisfactory work. I feel that I can achieve something useful and helpful with my work.

What are you going to miss from Germany during your time in Namibia?

What I will miss most is my family. We have two daughters who are still living at our house. One of them is a teenager, the other one is preparing to go to university right now. I will miss my wife and my friends.

It is good that nowadays we have new opportunities of staying in touch thanks to the internet. Also during early disaster missions we could fix some "meeting" times at the computer.

So we can spend an hour in front of the computer on Sundays and can talk about what has happened during my absence.

Dear Jörg, the entire humedica team would like to wish you all the best for your mission and God's blessings. Thank you very much for this interview.