WHO Response to the 2009 floods emergency in Namibia: Preventing diseases, saving lives



From March 2009, north-central and north-eastern Namibia experienced the worst flooding in decades. The six regions affected were Caprivi, Kavango, Ohangwena, Omusati, Oshana and Oshikoto. Nearly 700 000 people (over 30% of Namibia's 2.1. million population) were affected; more than 56 000 people were displaced, 28 932 of whom were accommodated in a hundred relocation camps.1 Many of those affected by the 2009 floods had not yet recovered fully from the floods of 2008, reducing their resiliency to cope with the new disaster.

The MoHSS requested support from WHO to provide technical assistance to regional and district health officials to undertake a rapid needs assessment. WHO assisted the regional health management teams, particularly in the north-eastern parts of Namibia to conduct regular coordination meetings. This helped to monitor the situation in flood-affected areas and take the necessary actions in time.

This report examines the extent of the damages caused to the health sector as a result of the floods. It discusses the response by government and partners, particularly the contributions to this emergency by the WHO. Furthermore, it identifies the challenges experienced in the response and provides recommendations for improving health services to ensure effective emergency preparedness and response capability for future disasters.

While this report focuses on the flood disaster of 2009, the recommendations could be valuable for any other disaster, such as disease outbreaks, droughts and wildfires if effectively implemented.

The report shows that capacity building is required in life-saving skills across communities as well as in disease surveillance, emergency preparedness and response and planning across all regions affected.