Stubborn floodwaters will stay up to six months

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JOHANNESBURG, 14 April 2011 (IRIN) - Flooding in northern Namibia has killed 65 people and displaced about 60,000 others, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its southern Africa flood and cyclone report published on 13 April 2011.

"While the northeastern region of Kunene had experienced some flooding, the main humanitarian needs are in the six regions of Oshana, Oshikoto, Omusati, Ohangwena, Kavango, and Caprivi," the update noted.

Three successive years of heavy rains in the affected regions had raised the water table considerably, meaning that "flood water levels are unlikely to recede for the next three to six months" because the soil was waterlogged, OCHA said.

Michelle Thulkanam, the World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson in Namibia, told IRIN that incidents of diarrhoea had not increased substantially, but as the surface water became stagnant, waterborne diseases like cholera and malaria were likely to appear. In one region alone there had been 300 new cases of malaria.

She said water purification tablets were being distributed, as "the quality of drinking water [in flood-affected areas] was a concern."

"There are still gaps in the key sectors of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), essential non-food items (NFIs), and logistics, particularly in accessing some cut-off areas," OCHA said.

"As many as 40 health clinics are submerged, with more than 100 health mobile outreach points made inaccessible due to damaged roads and bridges," Namibia's Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) and the WHO said in a joint statement on 13 April 2011.

"In Omusati and Oshana regions alone, nearly 60 percent of mobile clinic points are not functional. In Omusati, 74 out of 128 mobile clinic points (58 percent) are inaccessible. In the Oshana region, 34 out of 43 mobile clinics (79 percent) are cut off. Consequently, many flood-affected people have limited to no access to health care."

The UN Country Team is to issue a US$2.2 million flash appeal "to support national efforts to assist an estimated 60,000 people", and supplement the national government disaster response with about US$4.5 million.

The government has declared a state of emergency. An estimated 228,500 people - about 11 percent of the population - have been affected by flooding.

OCHA said between 60 percent and 70 percent of the government's emergency assistance had been "earmarked" for logistics, such as air-lifting, transportation, and search-and-rescue, and the balance of the funds would be spent on food, shelter and health.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has appealed for about US$2 million to help the Namibian Red Cross provide services and support to about 37,000 people affected by flooding for the next six months.