State of emergency declared: VSO's Namibian volunteers on the front line
Floods and storms are threatening the homes and work of VSO’s 54 international volunteers in Namibia.
Half of VSO’s international volunteers are located in the flood-affected north of the country, close to the borders with Zambia and Angola – where a State of Emergency has been declared. Access to clean drinking water is the immediate concern for the staff and the communities they live in.
Penny O’Brien, originally from Stoke Newington in the UK, is an Education Management Training Advisor for the Ministry of Education overseeing schools across Namibia, including in the flood-affected region of
“This crisis has been worsening since December because there is now nowhere for the water to go. Teachers and pupils are wading through unclean, snake-filled water to access their schools and there has been costly damage to buildings. Sadly some of our pupils have drowned in the floods. We are not sure how much longer we can keep many of the schools in our region open as the floods are forecast to get worse in the next two to four weeks. Another 200 schools across the country have already closed. The damage to precious education resources will have long-term effects on the education of the entire population in this region.”
VSO Country Director for Namibia Nicky Matthews said the floods will have a devastating effect on food production where many rural subsistence farmers, already living with poverty, have lost any chance of providing food for their families over the coming year.
“It is widely acknowledged that climate change is the cause of this flooding across much of the north of the country. This is a relatively new issue for Namibia and for the past four years severe and widespread flooding of the major rivers has become increasingly worse, each year causing larger natural disasters.
“There has not been a day without rain for the past three months. My home in the capital, Windhoek, has been flooded due to rain and I have been without electricity for two days. One major road through the capital has been washed away. There are few areas that haven’t been touched by flooding but it is the region in the north of the country that is most affected. There are concerns about food shortages in the coming months and an increase in waterborne diseases and malaria.”
The Namibian President, Hifikepunye Pohamba, today declared a state of emergency. More than 200 schools and many health clinics have closed across the country. The regions of Ohangwena, Oshana, Oshikoto, Omusati, Kavango and Caprivi have been severely affected by the floods.
VSO is the leading international development charity that works through volunteers. Since 1958 more than 44,000 volunteers have worked in more than 120 countries. Today there are over 1600 international volunteers working in 42 countries around the world.
VSO in Namibia
VSO has 54 international volunteers working on HIV/AIDS, secure livelihoods, education and disability programmes in Namibia. VSO has been working in the Southern African country for 21 years.