Heavy rains continue in southern Africa
FAO assistance addresses immediate and long-term needs
21 February 2008, Rome - Heavy rains are expected to continue in the Zambezi River basin through the end of March 2008, posing an imminent risk to the lives and livelihoods of at least 1 million people in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
This year’s flood season in southern Africa, a region still reeling from the floods of 2007, began almost a month earlier than usual. Torrential rainfall since mid-December has already damaged the homes and crops of nearly 450 000 people in the four countries - and the rainy season is only half over.
Damage has been compounded by a series of tropical storms, and more are expected.
Crops, livestock hit
“The main cropping season in southern Africa is between October and April, and the flooding has had serious effects on crops and livestock living in lower-lying areas, but also on higher ground, reducing household food security,” said Anne M. Bauer, Director of FAO’s Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division.
The floods have washed away crops, destroyed granaries, triggered weed infestation and caused soil nutrients to leach, increasing both the likelihood of a food gap in the short-term and longer-term difficulties in replanting.
Waterborne parasites and crowding due to displacement have increased the incidence of livestock disease, including Rift Valley Fever, which also affects humans. Flooding has also increased the risk of Epizootic Ulcerative Syndrome (EUS), a fish disease. Outbreaks of EUS generally occur in wild fish first and then spread to fish ponds, a serious threat to a significant source of income for many rural communities in the region.
FAO and its humanitarian partners last week launched an appeal for $89 million for emergency assistance to flood-affected populations in the four countries. Of this, over $9.5 million is needed to support FAO’s agricultural relief activities.
“FAO’s approach is two pronged,” says Bauer. “First, we need to ensure the timely provision of life-saving inputs associated with agriculture, livestock and fisheries. Longer term, FAO will continue to share its technical expertise to build the capacity of local government services and civil society to mitigate the impact of floods and empower flood-affected communities to ‘build back better’.”
Proposed FAO activities include projects to prevent the spread of Rift Valley Fever and EUS, provide planting material to ensure rapid restoration of food production, and distribute small livestock to help pastoralists cope with the impact of the floods and future shocks.
“With this immediate assistance, many communities will be able to take advantage of receding floodwater, and plant and harvest within three to four months, reducing the need for extended food aid,” says Bauer.
She praised the prompt response of affected governments in seeking international assistance, saying that early warning activities and contingency planning have ensured that preparedness measures are in place to guarantee a rapid response should the situation in the region deteriorate.
Media Relations, FAO
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