ONDANGWA, Namibia, 13 April 2011 – A few sunny days offer some respite for citizens reeling from the impact of the worst floods in northern and central Namibia since 2008, and its heaviest recorded rains. Report by Suzanne Beukes.
UNICEF’s Suzanne Beukes reports on the devastating floods in northern Namibia and efforts by UNICEF and its partners to provide humanitarian aid and protection to affected children and women.
More than 60 people have drowned since January, and over 37,000 have been displaced.
“It’s worse than any previous floods that we’ve experienced,” said Elina Ninkoti, Principal Social Worker of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare.
100,000 students out of school
At the Leo Shoopala camp in Oshakati, one of the towns hardest hit by the crisis, Hilma Mholongela, 8, spends her days playing games because she can’t go to school.
She and her mother Eva fled their home when it flooded in the middle of the night. Hilma is one of more than 100, 000 children out of school. Three hundred and twenty four schools have been affected by the flood, and 163 have closed.
Since Hilma has been able to hold a pencil, her schooling has been interrupted every year by floods. But Eva says this time it is worse and she is not sure when they will be able to go home again.
HIV treatment affected
The floods have also destroyed roads, bridges, homes and staple crops all over Namibia.
Twenty two healthcare centres are underwater, and the Government of Namibia has said it’s concerned that the floods will adversely affect HIV treatment because many HIV positive people are unable to obtain their anti-retroviral medicines.
These regions are already some of the poorest and have some of the highest HIV rates in the country.
In addition, the Directorate Disaster Risk Reduction and Management has reported an increase in the number of malaria cases in flood-affected regions. Four hundred cases have been reported since the beginning of this year.
Overcrowding in relocation centres, coupled with inadequate water and sanitation facilities, represents another health risk with the potential to increase the threat of outbreaks of diarrhoeal illness and the spread of communicable diseases.
Aid and protection needed
The Namibian Government declared a state of emergency at the end of March and has allocated $4.4 million to the crisis. Meanwhile, the Meteorological Service has advised that more rains are expected in the central and northern part of the country.
This means the situation will get worse before it gets better, with more people needing temporary housing and urgent humanitarian help – including protection.
“Health, of course, is important, immunization of children is important, making sure that we do not have experiences of diarrhoea and other forms of water borne diseases [is important],” said UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Elhadj As Sy. “But this is a population that needs to be protected at this particular point in time to make sure young girls are taken care of in a vigilant manner.”