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Friday, December 21, 2007

Namibia: Region Meets On Disaster Preparedness

Namibia and seven other countries from Southern Africa met in South Africa early this month to discuss ways in which they can closely work together to combat the devastating effects of floods in the region.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says the eight countries, namely the Comoros, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa met to scale up disaster preparedness ahead of the rainy season.

In 2007, flood and wind damage caused by heavy rains and cyclones destroyed the livelihoods of more than one million people across the region.

In Namibia, the floods hit four constituencies in Caprivi Region, namely Kabbe, Katima rural, Linyanti, and Kongola and displaced more than 7000 villagers. Eleven schools were affected and 1120 pupils were relocated to other schools on higher ground - at Schuckmannsburg, Lusese and Kabbe.

In February this year the floods hit Namibia when heavy rains received in Angola resulted in the Zambezi River bursting its banks, flooding the Caprivi Region.

Many villages, fields, cattle and boreholes were submerged while nine people died from drowning, crocodile attacks and snakebites.

Even though the floods are a perennial event in the Caprivi Region, this year's were reported the worst since 1958.

The floods forced farmers at Muyako to prematurely harvest their crops in the fertile Lyambezi Lake, after the area was submerged.

According to the UN's humanitarian affairs office, emergency responders agreed to a draft declaration of intent to share information and capacities for emergency response, establish regional rapid response teams and develop protocols that allow for the free circulation of emergency personnel and relief materials in the region.

The group agreed on the need for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders to demonstrate the political will and financial commitment necessary to ensure the full implementation of their recommendations, including the re-activation of the SADC Disaster Risk Management Team.

In recognition of the high HIV prevalence levels throughout Southern Africa, the group agreed to pay special attention to integrating HIV prevention and care into emergency preparedness and response.

Two countries, South Africa and Madagascar, were quick to cement their commitment to regional cooperation. They signed an agreement to collaborate in the exchange of technical know-how, human resources and equipment in response to floods and cyclones next year.

"This year, many governments in the region have taken steps in their own countries to be better prepared for the current rainy and cyclone season, in particular undertaking contingency planning for disasters," said Kelly David.

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"And now, they are looking beyond that and how they can help each other and draw on international resources and technical expertise to better manage the impacts they all face from natural hazards."

David is the head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Regional Office for Southern Africa, which hosted the emergency preparedness and response workshop.

International aid workers and officials from countries vulnerable to floods and cyclones attended the workshop held from December 5 to 7 in Johannesburg.


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