International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warns of potential disastrous flood crisis in southern Africa

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The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warned today [14 January 2008] of a potential disastrous flood crisis in southern Africa. The region has been affected by heavy rains which started last month in parts of Zimbabwe. The flooding situation is now spreading to other countries including Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland and Madagascar.

“The current seasonal rains – intensified by La Niña current in the Pacific - has pushed rivers to their danger level and beyond over the past two weeks,” says Peter Rees, Head of the International Federation Operations Support Department. “The weather forecast for the next 7 days is not good with more rain expected which could last until April. If this happens, southern Africa will certainly face major flooding with potentially catastrophic consequences. This is why we should not wait, immediate respond to the coming crisis and further develop disaster preparedness activities,” he adds.

The situation in Mozambique is particularly worrying. This flood-prone country was already severely-hit by flooding immediately followed by a cyclone in February 2007. Many communities are just starting to recover and they now have to face another crisis. About 60,000 people are currently being affected but numbers are rising on a daily basis. The Mozambique Red Cross Society has assisted in emergency evacuations. It also provided tents, tarpaulins, plastic sheets, mosquito nets, mattresses and other non-food items to hundreds of families in Sofala, Manica, Inhambane, Zambezia and Tete.

“We still have stocks and volunteers in reserve in the north of the country but we now badly need cash to keep the logistics going,” says Fernanda Teixeira, secretary general of the Mozambique Red Cross. The extent of the humanitarian crisis has been limited so far by the early warning given by Red Cross volunteers who immediately alerted communities as soon as the water level started to rise and helped them to move to higher grounds.

On Friday, the International Federation released one million Swiss francs (US$ 980,000 / € 660,000) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Funds (DREF) to support Red Cross societies in affected countries in their response. A preliminary appeal will be launched shortly.

“We must immediately bring humanitarian aid to affected communities but we also need to bear in mind that people affected or displaced by the floods will need long-term assistance, especially to restore their livelihoods,” says Françoise Le Goff, Head of the International Federation‘s southern Africa zone office which is supporting all Red Cross societies in the region involved in emergency response operations.

For further information, or to set up interviews, please contact:

Alex Wynter, Tel:+44 7717470855 (roaming)
In Geneva:
Jean-Luc Martinage, Media Officer for Africa  Tel: +41 227304296/+41 792173386
Duty phone              Tel: +41 794163881

The Geneva-based International Federation promotes the humanitarian activities of 186 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies among vulnerable people. By coordinating international disaster relief and encouraging development support, it seeks to prevent and alleviate human suffering. The Federation, National Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross together, constitute the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

© International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

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