Monday, 30 March 2009

Worst flood for decades

The Zambezi River rises in the Kalene Hills in north-west Zambia and flows north through Angola for about 280km and then re-enters Zambia, flowing south through the Barotse plain. In south west Zambia the river becomes the border between Zambia and Namibia for about 130km. Mwandi is about half way along this border.

The water level on the Zambezi continues to rise past its highest levels ever. The National Milling Shop at Mwandi looks like Noah’s Ark with a sandbag causeway to reach it. Houses in the lower lying parts of the village have been flooded.The flooding is destroying crops and blocking roads and threatening food security for the coming year. There are likely to be low food stocks with shortages of maize and mealie meal on local markets for some time.

Heavy rain has also caused smaller rivers like the Kasaya and Loantja to flood, cutting off access to settlements, destroying homes and schools and displacing people in Namibia, Zambia and Angola. With floods come also the danger of diseases like malaria and cholera. Shang'ombo, the District to the East of us is completely cut off and has been for over a week. Yesterday the Zambezi crossed the second highest level ever recorded since 1969. Heavy rains are continuing to fall upstream

Across the river in Namibia the Zambezi has risen above its highest recorded level because the rains have persisted longer than usual. It is reported we have received more than 200% of our normal rainfall in February. The floods have so far claimed 92 lives and will affect the food security of Namibian subsistence farmers too. Our part of the border between Zambia and Namibia is a colonial invention. There are Lozis on both sides of the river. During the floods, people who die across the water are usually buried in Mwandi as their cemetery is under water for three months of the year.

Finally to give you an idea of what we could expect, God forbid: in 2007 an estimated 285,000 people were affected and 29 were killed in the Zambezi River basin during the worst floods to hit the country in six years.

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