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« on: February 25 2013 »

By VUSUMUZI SIFILE / Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf)

FLOODS have left a trail of destruction in a number of countries in southern Africa in recent weeks. Several deaths have been reported and thousands of people have been left homeless by the annual flooding, the level of commitment of key actors to manage flooding and minimise losses leaves a lot to be desired. Crops and livestock have also been lost.

Sustained year-round action is needed from a range of stakeholders to protect the often tenuous livelihoods of communities living in the region’s river basins. The continuing loss of life and destruction of property is a cause for concern that requires serious and relentless commitment from different stakeholders to promote urgent and sustainable action.
The media has also failed to effectively promote debate and public participation in flood preparation and response.
Parts of Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Malawi and Namibia were all hit by flooding in January and February.
The Limpopo River burst its banks, flooding parts of Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique. In addition to the loss of human life and destruction of homes, the floods also resulted in a mass escape of about 15,000 crocodiles from a South African farm, endangering both wildlife and people.
Mozambique recorded some of the worst floods in its history.  In Gaza and Maputo, the floods have washed away roads, submerged homes and destroyed crops. The floods were caused by high water levels in the Limpopo River, which Mozambique shares with Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana, and the Inkomati River, which the country shares with South Africa and Swaziland. An estimated 55,000 people are directly affected, according to the Disaster Relief Management Institute (INGC).
Severe floods were also experienced in northern Botswana, resulting in the displacement of refugees in Dukwi.
In Zambia, it was reported that four people died in Isoka district of Muchinga Province after being swept away by floods. Media reports said some 20 households in Kampumbu Agricultural Block in Isoka district were left homeless after their mud houses collapsed following heavy rains, while fields of maize and groundnuts were submerged.
In Malawi, floods hit the country’s southern region, displacing over 33,000 people. The rising waters also destroyed crops in Mangochi, Phalombe and Nsanje districts and disrupted more than 20 schools, affecting thousands of children.
About 14,500 inhabitants of the flood-hit Kabbe Constituency in Namibia’s Caprivi Region were recently told to relocate to higher ground before more serious flooding occurs. Reports also indicated that villagers in such areas as Musanga, Lisikili and Kalimbeza along the Zambezi River were forced to harvest their crops prematurely after floods began to threaten their fields.
Because of climate change and other factors, it is now clear that flooding will remain a permanent feature of the rainy season in various parts of southern Africa. There is need for collective efforts among different stakeholders to address flooding and these efforts should not wait until homes have been destroyed and property destroyed.
There are many ways the region can respond to the floods and empowering citizens, particularly, the vulnerable and most affected is one of the keys. The efforts of different stakeholders to provide shelter, food, clothing and other essentials to those displaced by floods are commendable, but more needs to be done.
As an organisation focused on communication for development, Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) believes providing citizens with the right information will empower them to actively participate in climate change alleviation efforts on one hand, and to appropriately respond to actual floods on the other. The media will play a crucial role in helping different stakeholders use information to mitigate against future flooding.
Despite the global attention to climate change, the media has not given the subject the space it deserves. Increased media coverage of climate change will help people understand the dynamics involved in the phenomenon, particularly, the causal effect between human economic activities such as indiscriminate harvesting of forests for fuel and timber and the extreme weather patterns like floods.
There is an urgent need to address some of the constraints the media face in reporting development in general and climate change in particular. Special emphasis should be on building the capacity of community media in effective development reporting, particularly that which involves the active participation of citizens. This will go a long way in enhancing national disaster management and relief efforts, as community members will be empowered to share information about floods and other hazards as and when the developments unfold.
In the case of shared water resources, the media can also serve as a platform for dialogue among the different stakeholders. Activity in one country usually affects developments in other riparian states. For example, flooding in Mozambique’s Gaza Province is influenced by what happens upstream along the Limpopo - in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana. The same applies to Malawi, where flooding along the Shire River, to some extent, is determined by what happens elsewhere in the Zambezi River, which the country shares with Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Angola and Namibia. The river has two of Africa’s largest water bodies, Cahora Bassa and Lake Kariba.
It is not possible for one country to do it alone in terms of managing these shared water resources. There should be serious co-ordination among the riparian states.
Flooding has become a major development concern for Southern Africa and Mozambique remains among the countries most affected by this phenomenon. Under its Environment and Natural Resources Management programme, PSAf is currently working to support the media and other stakeholders to promote sustainable responses to key environmental issues across southern Africa. The organisation is implementing a number of initiatives to raise public awareness and promote public participation on key environmental issues in the region.

The author is the Communications and Knowledge Management Officer for Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf), a regional communication for development organisation working across southern Africa. He can be contacted through email on vusa@panos.org.zm.

source: http://www.daily-mail.co.zm/index.php/features/item/10851-southern-africa-floods-call-for-urgent-attention
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