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ZAMBIA: Heavy rains leave 10,000 homeless

Johannesburg, 26 March 2003 (IRIN) - Already struggling to cope with food shortages, some 10,000 people in Gwembe district in southern Zambia have now been left homeless by recent heavy rains, a senior government official said on Wednesday.

"Most Gwembe residents have left the area and moved in with their relatives. Thousands have fled to higher ground to escape the flooding. Although some people have said they wanted to return to the area once the infrastructure has been restored, it would be impossible for some [to return] because the rains have destroyed most of the buildings in the area," National Coordinator of the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit Jones Mwanza told IRIN.

He added that torrential rains had washed away several power lines, roads and three bridges in the area.

"The main areas affected are around the Lukonde and Munyumbwe rivers and the Chipepo area. In most cases the roads have become impassable which means that school feeding and relief food operations have been halted. In some cases the government has had to airlift emergency aid to those in need," Mwanza said.

He estimated that almost 2,000 ha of maize, Zambia's main staple food, had been destroyed in Gwembe, 380 km south of the capital Lusaka.

"Many families had planted along the river bank after the first rains but most of their crops were destroyed when the rivers swelled following the heavy rains. This means there are likely to be increases in numbers of people in need of food aid in the coming months. As the water subsides we are also concerned by the spread of illnesses among the vulnerable communities," Mwanza added.

Theme (s): Food Security,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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