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Floods Receding in Namibia and Zambia

United Nations officials say flood waters in Namibia and Zambia are receding and regional weather forecasters say they currently have no projections for heavy rains in the catchments of the Zambezi and Okavango. The focus is shifting toward assisting some 350,000 people affected by crop losses weather the next twelve months.

The flood waters in northern Namibia and southwestern Zambia began slowly to recede three days ago but it is likely to take two or three weeks until communities once again become accessible. Simon Nhongo, the United National Resident Coordinator based in Windhoek, tells VOA until then, people cannot access basic services.

"But most of the social-economic infrastructure, hospitals, schools still remain inaccessible, and the people who have been affected remain roughly the same," said Nhongo.

The communities of the region were preparing for the annual harvest of pearl millet and corn within weeks. Nhongo says the outlook is bleak and that about 30 percent of the affected communities were already experiencing food shortages. He says the impact could be felt for as long as twelve months.

"For the medium to long term there will be a need for recovery, meaning those who were expecting to harvest their crops for their food will need to continue being fed by the humanitarian agencies," said Nhongo. "And then also their fields will need to be rehabilitated if they have been flooded, so it might affect their livelihoods even for the next season."

Communities in the central regions of northern Namibia will have access, as they do each year, to fish that comes down from Angola during the annual flood. This fish is dried and kept for use throughout the year.

However, Nhongo says communities in the Caprivi who rely on fishing in the Zambezi and Okavango throughout the year, will be less fortunate.

"But when it is flooded like this then fishing becomes almost not possible, so they are definitely going to be affected in terms of not having their normal sources of livelihood," he said.

Already the Namibian government is preparing assessments of the needs of the communities. Nhongo says this will be presented to donors.

"There are going to be meetings with the donor partners, and maybe from that we are get an idea of how much will be needed in the short term as well as in the long term," he said.

Across the Zambezi in Zambia, national disaster management officials say the flooding has reached its peak, but they only expect to have full impact assessment reports in about a week.