Zambia: Floods ravage many houses, crops and infrastructure

News and Press Release
Originally published
By James Zulu, Zambia Red Cross Society

Lusaka. 25th January, 2007 - Zambia has been experiencing torrential rainfall since the second week of December 2006. The rains which initially where heavy in Mpulungu and Solwezi Districts in the Northern and North-Western of Zambia where the resultant floods destroyed houses and rendering hundreds of people homeless and affected the water and sanitation facilities have since affected the Luapula, Copperbelt, Central, Eastern, Lusaka and part of Southern Provinces where the floods have destroyed crops, more than 5000 human dwellings and rendering some roads impassable.

Most houses are made of mud and the communities rely on unsafe shallow wells for water. With the collapse of the latrines, water sources are likely to be contaminated and this pose a possibility for the outbreak of waterborne and water related diseases such as cholera.

In Ndola, Chipulukusu resident development committee (RDC) secretary, Mpundu Mapepo, said houses had continued to collapse because heavy rain had continued to pour and was weakening the structures.

"My house collapsed partially in the early hours of the morning after a heavy down pour as we were in the house still asleep and we just managed to take refugee in our neighbors house though my uncle and my young brother still remained in the partially collapsed house taking care of the house goods," Given Mwape, 20, years old mother of three children Mrs. Given Mwape who is also widowed in Chipulukusu, Ndola.

"My house collapsed and my crops destroyed and I sought temporal refuge in my neighbor's shelter before it also collapsed," narrated Nyachinyama Mutete, a widow of Chavuma when a team of officials from the Disaster Management and Mitigation unit (DMMU).

The Zambia Red Cross Society through the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies issued a Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) bulletin for Mpulungu and Solwezi reflecting the situation available as at 15th January 2007 and Immediately CHF 54,000 was allocated from the Federation's DREF to respond to the needs of the affected people.

"We received a DREF of CHF 54,000 from the Federation which we used to procure Tarpaulins/tents, liquid chlorine, transport materials, gloves, other disinfectants and to conduct community hygiene promotion trainings in Solwezi and Mpulungu,"said Charles Mushitu, the Zambia Red Cross Society Secretary General.

"Our volunteers are currently busy in the affected areas of the country assisting the affected people, carrying out assessments together with the government teams," said Mr. Mushitu.

"We have been asked by the government to intervene as quickly as we can by providing tents and chlorine to the affected communities," he added.

A total of 15,700 households (94,000 persons) have been affected in Solwezi and 21,000 people in Mpulungu have been left homeless after more than 822 houses collapsed. "The floods situation has been compounded by poor housing infrastructure and poor sanitation facilities in the communities," added Mr. Mushitu.

It is reported that several schools have been closed and teachers deployed to other schools due to high levels of water within the school premises. Over 100 families in Kapiri Mposhi district have also been left homeless and left a trail of destruction in Soweto, Ndeke and other townships as well as in parts of Chief Mukonchi's area.

"The affected people are now living in temporary shelters made from materials salvaged from their damaged homes. The situation is getting worsen every day as reports of collapsed houses and flooded fields keep on coming to Red Cross from various districts and hence the need to pre-position the relief materials like tents, chlorine, food and other disinfectants," said Trust Hakulipa, the Zambia Red Cross Society Disaster Management Coordinator.

"There is thus a need to respond urgently to the plight of the affected people" added Mr. Hakulipa.

Zambia Cross Society has 6,000 bottles of liquid chlorine (each 250 ml) and 100 bags x 25 kg of mealie-meal in emergency stocks and with the CHF 54,000 allocated from the Federation's DREF to enable the national society to intervene has since dispatched a team to Solwezi with relief supplies and tarpaulins/tents and another team is being dispatched to Mpulungu once tents/tarpaulins are procured. The Red Cross volunteers have also been mobilized to provide health and hygiene promotion activities so as to prevent outbreaks of waterborne diseases.

The current reports on the floods calls for more concerted effort and urgent humanitarian intervention before many lives are lost.