SOUTHERN AFRICA: More flooding on the way
Communities living along the Zambezi in Mozambique risk flooding each year
johannesburg, 8 January 2009 (IRIN) - More rains are forecast for Southern Africa into next week, threatening countries already grappling with the impact of recent flooding.
Parts of Zimbabwe have been inundated with heavy rains since 26 December, and the authorities have warned of yet more flooding in the north of the country. That could affect efforts to stem a cholera outbreak that nationwide has now claimed 1,753 lives.
Rains have also pounded parts of Mozambique and Malawi over the past few weeks, killing at least one person, displacing thousands and drowning farm land.
William Msimanga, a senior meteorologist at the South African Weather Service, said more rain was headed for Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana, Mozambique, parts of Madagascar and central South Africa in the next few days. Lesotho and Swaziland would also experience scattered rains, he noted.
Further heavy rains in Zimbabwe could spell trouble for neighbouring Mozambique. One of its major rivers, the Pungue, which has been under flood alert since last month, originates in Zimbabwe. The Zambezi, the region’s biggest river, also flows through Zimbabwe before entering Mozambique.
Mozambique - again
Last week, torrential rains hit Mozambique’s Inhambane Province in the south, and the central provinces of Manica, Sofala and Zambezia, destroying houses, roads and bridges.
“In Inhambane the heavy rainfall resulted in flash floods that displaced people, destroyed houses and inundated farmland, but none of the country’s main rivers have burst their banks yet to create serious flooding,” Belarmino Manuel Chivambo, spokesman for the National Emergency Operations Centre, told IRIN.
But Chivambo was concerned with the growing potential risk to communities along the Pungue, which flows through central Mozambique.
|Map of countries including areas of Mozambique affected by floods, January 2009
Mozambique is flood-prone: in 2000 and 2001 over 800 people were killed and hundreds of thousands left homeless. Up to 300,000 people in river communities throughout central Mozambique were affected by flooding in early 2008, with 29 killed.
Every year in Malawi villagers living along the floodplain of the Shire river – the country’s largest – risk losing their crops and their homes, and 2009 has been no different. So far, 2,100 families have been affected after the Shire broke its banks due to heavy rains.
Rodney Simwaka, the commissioner for the southern district of Nsanje, said the river waters coupled with strong winds destroyed 46 houses in 12 villages, but no loss of life was reported.
“The floods have also washed away fields of millet, sorghum and maize,” Simwaka said, adding, “There could be more trouble in the coming days as this is just the beginning.”
The loss of crops in the south to flooding could aggravate existing food security concerns. The Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee estimated in October last year that at least 1.5 million people could face food shortages into 2009.
Flood-prone countries such as Mozambique and Malawi have tightened their disaster response in recent years.
Mozambique, the acknowledged regional leader in disaster management, has adopted a decentralised approach to speed up reaction times. Equally importantly, collaborating aid agencies and NGOs are trying to help communities survive the aftermath of flooding.
"This means after the floods are gone, the communities continue to sustain themselves on income-generating projects under our Disaster Risk Reduction and post-emergency programmes,” Milton Machel, an information officer with the development agency Oxfam, told IRIN.
“Improvements in the form of the lower numbers of people being affected by flooding are beginning to show,” he added.