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Storms Bring Flooding and Water-Borne Illness to Southern Africa


In recent weeks, heavy rains and subsequent flooding has left thousands in southern Africa without homes. It’s also flattened some crops and spurred the spread of water-borne illnesses like cholera. From Johannesburg, Mike Huggins of the World Food Program says 40 thousand people are displaced in southern Malawi and hundreds in rural areas of Mozambique. He tells VOA reporter William Eagle that the rains and floods come as much of the region fights food shortages caused by drought. Last year, Zambia and Malawi declared the shortages as national disasters.

Mr. Huggins says “it really depends on how the weather patterns continue over the next couple of weeks; if they continue to be as severe in deluge as they have been over the past few weeks, then I think we will be in for a more severe situation, especially in the low lying areas of southern Africa.” He says an outbreak of cholera is also possible in Mozambique and Malawi if the rains continue.

Food shortages and erratic rainfall have been common occurrences in recent years, and some say governments should be better prepared to handle such emergencies.

“We have the need for agriculture reform in all countries in the region,” says Mike Huggins. “We have to move away from a dependence on maize agriculture and look at more drought resistance crops. We also have the HIV/AIDS virus which is taking an incredible toll on rural and poor communities because most people are spending their meager amounts of money on medicines and caring for ill loved ones, rather than buying food and seed and fertilizers to actually plant.”

Mr. Huggins says those reforms cannot take place until people are first fed, and that’s exactly what the WFP is doing with what he terms its "meager assets" right now. The WFP spokesman say his agency has pre-positioned food for emergency distribution throughout the region.