Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cunene Floods

One house flooded. Note the proximity of the water to the side of the road. Normally this road is raised by at least 5 feet.

In addition to slipping across the border to renew my 90-day visa, I went to Cunene to gather information about the devastating flooding going on in the southern province that borders with Namibia.

It has rained much more than usual- in fact Cunene was suffering from a drought before the rains came. Estimates are that 40,000 families have been affected in some way.

The director of our local partner agency and I tried to meet with some government officials to get numbers but it was short notice and I’m not important enough, so no one would meet with us. On the radio they said 23,000 people in Ondjiva (the capital city of Cunene province) had been displaced (read- homeless).
An IDP tent in one of the camps

The situation in Ondjiva alone was shocking. We visited two IDP (internally displaced persons) camps that had been set up by the government. The tents are crammed with people- we heard of one tent that was housing 4 families- and all the belongings they could grab before their houses were flooded. I saw no more than 3 makeshift latrines for each camp which, by the looks of it, house approximately 2,000 families (which would be around 10,000 to 15,000 people). Not a pleasant or sanitary set-up, to say the least.

What’s interesting about the Ondjiva flooding is that it doesn’t come from a river- it is simply accumulated water and all over the city. This poses an intense public health risk- I witnessed countless children playing in the water as if it was a giant swimming pool, adults with giant nets fishing inside the sewage gates which were gushing with water and dozens of people living right next to the stagnant water.
Note how close this house is to the water.

It’s harder to gauge what is happening in the interior of the province. It can only be worse. Unlike communities in Benguela province which are relatively close to one another, communities in Cunene are very spread out. Your closest neighbor may be a few miles away, so it’s difficult to know who has been displaced or killed. There weren’t any roads to speak of in the first place, so whatever was there has been washed out, making rescue and relief efforts difficult.

We will be bringing in an internal consultant to do a proper assessment and response proposal. Our partner plans to focus on the rural areas where response has been minimal. Sadly, it will only get worse as March is the peak of the rainy season.

1 comment:

Chris said...
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