United Nations and other relief agencies are responding to humanitarian needs in Zambia created by floods that have been plaguing the country since December and which now affect more than 20,000 people.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has released a $43,500 emergency grant to buy urgently-needed supplies such as water purification sachets, blankets, mosquito nets and jerry cans, while the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has supplied tents and "school-in-a-box" kits.
For its part, the Government of Zambia has carried out evacuations of several areas and its Disaster Management and Migration Unit has propositioned 150 tons of food in the seven most affected districts. The Zambia Red Cross, together with the International Federation of the Red Cross, has provided emergency goods and is appealing for more supplies like tarpaulins and portable latrines. A multi-agency team comprising government ministries, non-governmental organizations and UN agencies will report back once its latest assessment of needs in the area is completed.
According to OCHA, Kalabo district has recorded rainfalls that are 66 per cent above average. An increase in malnutrition rates is feared as many rice and maize fields have been submerged and food stocks have been depleted by years of food shortages. Flooding has spread disease among livestock that are fundamental to the economy of the region.
Meanwhile, some 39 schools have been submerged or destroyed by the waters, and health centres have been destroyed and water and sanitation facilities rendered inoperable, with outbreaks of dysentery being reported, OCHA said.
Zambia is classified as having "low human development" with a Human Development Index ranking 163 out of 175 countries. All of Zambia is recovering from severe food insecurity as a result of a complex combination of drought, high HIV/AIDS prevalence and endemic poverty. In 2002, the number of humanitarian aid beneficiaries totalled 2.6 million people, which was brought down to less than 500,000 in 2003.