UN aid agencies on alert for potential floods in Southern Africa

Fishing and farming communities all along the banks of the Zambezi river have suffered from flooding

11 March 2010 – The United Nations is gathering supplies for some 130,000 people in southern Africa on alert for potential evacuation from flood-risk zones following weeks of torrential rains in northern Mozambique and neighbouring Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Normal to above normal rains have swollen rivers, forcing authorities to discharge water from the Kariba Dam in Zimbabwe and the Cahora Bassa Dam in Mozambique, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported.

The Mozambican Government on Tuesday declared a Red Alert, signifying imminent danger. Over the past week, between 50 and 100 millimetres of rainfall was reported in the Northern and Central regions of Mozambique, particularly in areas located on the Zambezi River such as Tete, Manica, Sofala, Zambezia, Nampula and Inhambane provinces.

The UN Children's Agency (UNICEF) has said the Government and its aid partners have pre-emptively relocated at least 13,000 people displaced people to safe areas.

In Zambia, of the 4,800 estimated people living in the affected area, at least 900 have been have been taken to Independence Stadium in northern Lusaka, where the Government has set up temporary shelter.

The Ministry of Education there has told local UNICEF officials that some 10 schools in the Lusaka areas are under water. The flooding has already caused a spike in water-borne illnesses in Zambia. At least 900 cases of cholera have been reported, of which 19 were fatal.

Governments in Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe are monitoring the situation closely with UN Country Teams and national hydrological agencies, and coordinating with international partners on a response.

Given that the rainy season is ending in southern Africa and the situation appears to be under control so far, the probability of further flooding causing a significant humanitarian impact appears to be low, OCHA reported.

The rainy season in east Africa is just beginning. Unusually heavy rains in Kenya and Uganda have caused deadly flooding affecting thousands of people in both countries.

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