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Namibian Floods Expected to Worsen


Humanitarian officials are warning that flooding in parts of southern Africa will get worse in the coming weeks. The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has issued the warning for Namibia's northeastern Caprivi region.

Matthew Cochrane is communications manager for the federation. From Johannesburg, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about how the flood regions are being monitored.

"We work very closely with a number of scientific partners, including NASA, the United States space agency. And we're seeing now…this flooding around Lake Liambezi, which straddles Namibia's Caprivi Strip and Botswana. So we're seeing the water beginning to rise around there. And we're also see water in the flood plains along the Zambezi River and the Kavanga River rise as well," he says.

Flooding is also reported further downstream. "Zambia (is) obviously in the midst of some of its worst floods in many decades. And, as well, we're receiving reports from Botswana and even now parts of Zimbabwe. So, we're seeing the water make its way east," he says.

Cochrane says if water levels rise too high, officials in Zimbabwe may open the flood gates at a key dam and flood communities in Mozambique and Malawi.

The new flooding is expected over the next four to eight weeks. But Cochrane says it could last longer. "We're seeing reports again of rain in Angola, which is feeding a lot of this, as well as rain in the DRC. Now if that follows the patterns that we're expecting then it's four to eight weeks. If it's worse, we could be seeing it going on for two or three months."

It's estimated that over 550,000 people in the region have been affected by the floods, but because many areas are inaccessible, it's been difficult getting accurate figures. There also continues to be a shortage of boats and helicopters needed to ferry in emergency supplies. Governments have made requests for logistical support.

The federation itself has reached about 35,000 people so far in the flooded areas, providing them with water purification sachets, tarpaulins, tents, mosquito nets, etc. It's also providing sanitary facilities for some communities, which have been turned into islands by the swollen Zambezi River.

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