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Threat of cholera outbreak after floods in Namibia

24 April 2009

People with piles of household goods besides flood waterIFRCThe worst floods in Namibia in decades have forced more than 54,000 people from their homes and thousands living in camps are at risk of waterborne disease.

A Red Cross mass sanitation emergency response unit (ERU), specialised in preventing the outbreak of disease, is heading to Namibia to help combat this threat. Flooding on the Zambezi has already affected more than half-a-million people in Namibia and Angola and further floods are expected. 

The ERU is equipped to deal with the sanitation needs of up to 20,000 people, and also works to prevent sanitation-related diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea. The team will be led by Jorge Durand from the Spanish Red Cross and includes disaster management experts from the British Red Cross, Irish Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. 

Responding to needs

The British Red Cross has made a £75,000 donation from its Disaster Fund to support the emergency response. “The flooding in Namibia is the worst for 40 years, 92 people have died and, six weeks after the waters first rose, 54,000 people remain unable to return to their homes,” said Fiona Davidson, British Red Cross relief support officer.

“Having survived the initial floods, so many people are living close together in camps without access to proper sanitation there is now a major threat of disease breaking out. The team will work alongside the Namibian Red Cross providing life-saving support to these people.”      

The team flies in to the capital Windhoek over the weekend and then deploys to Caprivi in the very north east of the country 1,200 km away, leaving its logistics expert, John Cunningham, in the capital to establish a supply chain.

People at risk

With John ensuring a supply of necessary aid items, the team will establish sanitation facilities and provide hygiene education to prevent the outbreak and spread of disease.

Fiona said: “The team will work in camps in the Kavango and Caprivi regions, which are currently home to 12,000 people. At the moment some camps are only accessible by boat and the area has been identified as one of the places where people are most at risk.

“With more rain forecast for next week, it will be months before the waters subside enough for people to start returning home, it is essential that they remain healthy so that when they do go home they are able to begin rebuilding their lives.”

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A donation from our Disaster Fund has been made in response to this crisis. Contributions to the Disaster Fund will not be used directly in response to this disaster, but will be used in response to other emergencies in the future.