|© UNICEF Namibia/2008|
|A student walks to school through a flooded area in northern Namibia, where over 40 primary schools have been closed due to flood damage.|
By Hugh Ellis
ONGWEDIVA, Namibia, 7 April 2008 – Meme Selma, a 65-year-old farmer and mother of seven, is one of about 4,000 people who have been forced from their homes by floods over the last two months.
On a recent afternoon, she recalled the day her homestead in northern Namibia was submerged by floodwaters.
“It was such a shock,” said Ms. Selma. “I woke up and my house was underwater. My first thought was to get my two young grandchildren to safety.”
Ms. Selma lost almost all her household items in the floods, as well as her crops and cattle – important sources of food and income. She now lives with her grandchildren in a camp for displaced people in Ongwediva town, about 700 km north of the Namibian capital.
With over 40 primary schools closed due to flooding, the children in the camps have nothing to do.
“At least we got a place to sleep, me and these two little kids,” said Ms. Selma. “And I can continue making some money here selling fat cakes.”
The ‘fat cakes’ sell for one Namibia dollar, or about 13 cents, and have proven to be a big hit among children at the camp.
Health and security at stake
Ms. Selma and another 600 displaced people are crammed into a trade-fair hall that serves as a shelter.
“It doesn’t feel safe. There is no privacy,” she said. “Now the toilets here are flooded, also. Everybody ends up relieving themselves in the surrounding bushes. In the long run, we might all get sick here.”
|© UNICEF Namibia/2008|
|Meme Selma, a flood survivor in northern Namibia, prepares ‘fat cakes’ that she sells to earn a living.|
At least 533 suspected cases of cholera and two deaths from the disease have been reported in the neighbouring Ohangwena region, which is also severely affected by the flooding.
UNICEF’s Judy Matjila, who has toured the affected regions, identified an urgent need to deliver critical supplies to the affected people. “It is not just the floodwaters that will impact these people,” she said. “It is their long-term livelihoods, health and security that is at stake.”
Emergency response under way
UNICEF is carrying out an emergency response covering health, child protection, and water and sanitation – all as part of a government-led emergency management and coordination programme.
In order to boost relief efforts, UNICEF Namibia has requested emergency supplies from the organization's global supply hub in Copenhagen. While some of these materials have been procured, more funding is needed to purchase further supplies such as tents, hygiene kits, boats, water containers, water-purification tablets and recreation kits.
As UNICEF and other UN agencies work to bring this aid to displaced women and children, Ms. Selma and many others are still waiting for the floodwaters to subside.