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Swollen Zambezi submerges schools, clinics, homes

Flooding in Zambia's Western and North Western provinces has jeopardised the health, education and food security of people living in affected areas. The office of the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator in Zambia noted in its latest situation report that "over the last two months, reports of heavy rains submerging schools, communities, crops, and destroying infrastructure have abounded", with more than 21,000 households affected. A joint mission by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Office of the Resident Coordinator visited areas where heavy rains and the rising level of the Zambezi river were causing widespread damage. The report explained that while the Western and North Western provinces usually experience "normal" seasonal floods, when communities living on the Zambezi river plains migrate to higher lands in the east, "during the current season, rains in the area have been described as 'above normal'". "In Lukulu, one of the districts the Zambezi river traverses, agriculture department officials indicated that the area had 35 percent more rains at the end of February compared to the last season, which had also caused some localised flooding. The latest report of the meteorology department indicates that Kalabo, another district in the area, has cumulatively received 66 percent above normal rainfall, the highest in the last five seasons. The district even had 134 mm of rainfall water on a single day, on 14th March 2004," the situation report noted. As a result of the heavy rains, the Zambezi river had broken its banks and flooded most of the plains. "The flooding is said to have started as far back as December 2003. Most of the flooded areas are the lower plains and areas lying on the west of the Zambezi river," the report said. So far the greatest damage has been sustained by education, health, water and sanitation facilities in the flooded areas, with 39 schools, many health centres and homes being submerged. According to the report, "Lukulu alone saw 132 houses collapse due to heavy rains by mid-March. The greatest impact of the floods has mainly been confined to the western parts of the river, where an estimated 21,200 households across Lukulu, Senanga, Zambezi and Chavuma are affected. "In Mongu and Senanga, communities are moving to higher lands on the east of the river. In areas not submerged, canoes are being used to reach schools and health centres. Mobility and transportation across the river has also been limited, as roads have become impassable and the plains can only be crossed using boats," it added. The report warned that "there are also expectations of a rise in malaria, diarrhoea and other waterborne diseases". Damage to crops had so far been limited to areas on the plains and the western bank. "The most affected districts with regard to crops are Kalabo, Mongu and Lukulu, where many fields of maize and rice are said to be waterlogged," the report noted. Consultations between the government, the UN and other humanitarian actors on setting up a coordinated response to the floods were ongoing.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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