P 181459Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY WINDHOEK
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0406
INFO AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
CDC ATLANTA GA 0212
HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE UNCLAS WINDHOEK 000095
STATE FOR AF/S
STATE PASS TO AID FOR AFR/SA AND DCHA/OFDA
OFDA FOR PMORRIS, CCHAN, ACONVERY, LPOWERS, TDENYSENKO, HSHEPPARD
PRETORIA FOR HHALE, TROGERS
SUBJECT: Disaster declaration: Namibia-severe flooding in northern
and north eastern regions
Ref: A) Windhoek 70
B) Regional office of foreign disaster assistance trip
notes, March 10 - 13, 2009
Summary and action request
1. This is an action cable. See paras 2 and 8.
2. On March 17, 2009, the President of the Republic of Namibia
(GRN) declared a disaster and issued a request for international
assistance for the flood-affected northern and northeastern regions
of the country: Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshana, Oshikoto, Kavango and
Caprivi. Based on the GRN's disaster declaration and the continuing
deterioration of conditions in the northern and northeastern
regions, the Ambassador declares a humanitarian emergency of
significant magnitude to warrant USG assistance and requests USD
50,000 under the Chief of Mission's (COM) authority to respond to
the most urgent requirements. USAID/Namibia will provide a grant to
the Namibian Red Cross Society (NRCS), an NGO with significant
relief and rehabilitation experience that is working with the GRN in
the flood affected areas. USAID/Namibia will collaborate with the
USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) and the
Food for Peace Office (USAID/FFP) to monitor the situation. COM may
request additional assistance beyond emergency assistance based on
GRN-identified needs. End summary and action request.
Events leading to emergency
3. Since January 2009, Namibia has experienced heavy rainfall,
particularly in the northern and northeastern regions of the
country. Flood waters from southern Angola have aggravated the
situation. During January and February persistent rains, compounded
by heavy rainfall in the neighboring countries of Angola and Zambia,
resulted in flooding in the Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshana, Oshikoto,
Kavango and Caprivi regions. The affected areas are 700-900
kilometers north and northeast of Windhoek. According to the latest
GRN assessment report, 92 people were killed during the floods.
Approximately 300,000 people have been affected. Difficulty in
accessing many parts of the affected regions makes these figures
tentative. Many people have been or are being evacuated to higher
ground and temporary housing. According to the report, nearly 12,000
persons have sought shelter in relocation camps in the affected
4. The floods forced the closure of 218 schools affecting 100,000
students, and 45 clinics in the northern regions are inaccessible.
While the floods are posing health hazards and there is fear of
water-borne disease (e.g. cholera) outbreaks and increased incidence
of malaria, the assessment reported no increase in either. The
report does note the disruption of such health services as
immunization, antiretroviral therapy and treatment of illnesses and
expresses concern about sewage systems in some communities
overflowing, thus exposing surrounding populations to health risks.
The assessment report also expresses concern regarding the lack of
adequate clean water and sanitation facilities in most relocation
camps. Extensive damage to infrastructure, including roads,
bridges, schools, clinics and housing has been reported. Eighty-five
percent of gravel roads in the flood affected areas have been
damaged. Economic infrastructure and activities have been affected
negatively, forcing small businesses to close, resulting in loss of
trade opportunities and unemployment. For the second year in a row
it is likely that much of the mahanghu (sorghum) crops and
significant food reserves in the affected regions have been
destroyed and the inhabitants are likely facing dire food shortages.
Further assessments of crop losses and food security are expected in
the near future.
5. The GRN has demonstrated its willingness and capacity to respond
to affected citizens' needs. A flood emergency management
coordinating office was established in Oshakati to coordinate relief
efforts. The Directorate of Emergency and Disaster Management in the
Prime Minister's office conducted flood damage assessments in the
northern and northeastern regions to gauge the extent of damage to
infrastructure and threat to human lives. The directorate monitored
the situation and assisted people affected by the floods by
providing food and emergency housing. Populations in the low-lying
communities affected by the flooding were evacuated to higher ground
and resettlement centers. The Namibian Red Cross is active in the
flooded areas and is providing assistance in the resettlement camps
registering people, arranging medical services and providing
non-food items. The President of Namibia appealed to development
partners and the private sector to supplement limited government
resources and asked for motorized boats, medicine, water
purification tools, mosquito nets and food.
6. USAID has maintained regular contact with the Southern Africa
Regional Office/USAID/DCHA/OFDA. Regional Office of Foreign Disaster
Assistance (OFDA) and USAID officers visited the northern regions
during March 10 - 13 and provided a report and recommendations to
the Embassy, USAID and OFDA. USAID constantly monitors press reports
and has been in regular contact with the Namibia Red Cross Society
and the disaster emergency management directorate in the Prime
7. The USG will respond through a grant to the Namibian Red Cross
Society (NRCS) to meet selected specific needs identified by the GRN
and NRCS officers in the field. USG assistance will be coordinated
with the GRN Directorate of Emergency and Disaster Management to
ensure it meets priority needs.
8. Based on reports from the GRN, the Namibia Red Cross Society and
the press, we anticipate that the most critical humanitarian needs
identified by the GRN will be for shelter, food, medicine, water and
sanitation and water transport. It is anticipated that development
partners may receive GRN requests for assistance beyond emergency
needs, in particular rehabilitation needs, to address the damage and
shortages caused by two successive years of heavy flooding.
USAID/Namibia will collaborate with USAID/OFDA and USAID/FFP to
determine and plan for a USG assistance package if additional USG
assistance is required based on identified humanitarian and
infrastructure rehabilitation needs.
Declaration of humanitarian emergency
9. Based on the current situation and ongoing needs resulting from
the severe flooding in the north and northeastern regions of
Namibia, and the GRN's disaster declaration and international appeal
for help, I declare that a humanitarian emergency of such magnitude
that it is beyond the ability of the GRN to adequately respond has
occurred and that it is in the interest of the USG to provide
assistance to flood-affected populations. I hereby request USD
50,000 under the Chief of Mission's (COM) authority to respond to
the most urgent requirements.
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