As the Zambezi River's waters continue to rush over the broken banks in northeastern Namibia, swallowing villages, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has announced that it will launch an initiative to build the resilience of people affected each year by seasonal flooding.
According to IFRC, although the levels of the Zambezi and Kavango rivers in Namibia have begun to drop, water has continued to spread across the floodplains around Lake Liambezi, which straddles the border between Namibia's Caprivi Strip and Botswana. The lake lies on the Linyanti River, which eventually flows into the Zambezi, and is connected to the Chobe River, which has also burst its banks.
Southern Africa is affected by seasonal flooding of the Zambezi, the biggest river in the region, and its many tributaries, which flow through eight countries.
The annual flooding leaves thousands of communities living on the floodplains vulnerable to multifaceted threats such as food security and waterborne diseases.
"With the Zambezi River Basin Initiative we hope to be able to make broader interventions to support communities to overcome the problem with some creative thinking," said IFRC spokesman Matthew Cochrane.
The Red Cross has managed to turn a corner with its work in communities living on the floodplains in Mozambique, and intends to replicate some of its Mozambican initiatives in the rest of the region.
Besides developing community-based early warning, pre-positioning essential relief supplies, and training volunteers to effectively respond to floods and other disasters, Cochrane said IFRC had developed alternative sources of livelihood for people living on floodplains in Mozambique.
The most common problem confronting NGOs and government agencies working with communities on floodplains is their reluctance to relocate to higher ground.
|It is just a matter of looking across the river to start seeing trends and ideas, which might be able to help communities across the countries, which share very similar challenges such as food insecurity, HIV/AIDS and other health risks|
The Red Cross in Mozambique has worked around the problem by allowing communities the option of maintaining their homes and growing crops on the floodplains but moving to safer ground in the flood season, or relocating permanently. Relocated communities have been provided with alternative sources of income such as poultry farming.
"It is just a matter of looking across the river to start seeing trends and ideas, which might be able to help communities across the countries, which share very similar challenges such as food insecurity, HIV/AIDS and other health risks," Cochrane said. The initiative, which will start in another two months, will involve NGOs and government agencies in seven countries in the region.
Approximately 550,000 people in Angola and Namibia have been affected by the floods this year, according to the Red Cross. Reports of the flood damage and the number of displaced people in Zambia and Botswana are now emerging.
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