Features

Lives upended by floods

RHODA Lungu with her two sons outside their tent in Chizimba village of Chama district.

VIOLET MENGO, Chama
RHODA Lungu speaks in a broken whisper as she explains how her two -bedroom house in Chawaka village of chief Chizimba’s area in Lundazi District was washed away by massive floods in February this year.
Ms Lungu together, with her husband and five children are now at a camp within Chizimba village. They are being looked after by Government through the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU).
Life has not been the same for her family. But they are not alone.
Over 380 families are living in temporary shelter following the flush floods that affected over 500 families in the district. Many of them lost their houses and belongings.
For most of them, not only did the floods destroy their houses, but they also damaged their ready-to- harvest rice crop and the vegetable garden that used to be her main source of income.
For Ms Lungu, life revolved around gardening. She grew rape, cabbage, tomatoes and onion.
“The floods destroyed my dreams of a better life for my family,” she said. “My children are out of school because everything was lost in the floods.”
Born and raised in Chama district, Ms Lungu has seen the adverse effects of climate change, which has changed the scenario of the district. You can safely say they have been left destitute.
Now Ms Lungu fears for her family’s future.
“The changes in rainfall patterns really caught us unaware and ill-prepared. Going forward, we shall ensure that our structures are strong enough to withstand changes in weather patterns,” she said.
Ms Lungu’s family and other flood victims have remained under the support of DMMU, which provides emergency food rations monthly.
However, when they run out of their ration, Ms Lungu and her family have to survive on wild fruits called mabuyu.
But there is another urgent need. It is almost winter and the temperatures are not always friendly.
“The government has told us we will leave these tents in July at the month-end by which time our houses would have been built,” Ms Lungu said. “I have already been given a new piece of land by my traditional leadership where to build my house.”
At the time of the interview, Ms Lungu had just returned from clearing the piece of land in readiness for the building of her family house.
Her only concern, however, is that the roofing sheets provided by Government will not be enough for the kind of house the family desires to build. Each family has been given eight roofing sheets.
In fact, a number of families have complained that the number of iron sheets is not enough.
But Chama District Commissioner Leonard Ngoma says Government is committed to ensuring that affected households rebuild their lives again.
“Should Government find resources, surely more roofing sheets will be provided to ensure decent houses are constructed,” Mr Ngoma said.
Mr Ngoma said one major river called Kamphemba in Chama experienced a unique kind of flooding compared to previous years leaving a trail of destruction.
“About 500 households were affected with 380 families being evacuated to settle at different camps namely Kapalakonje, Katangalika, Chikwa, Sitwe, Mutanila and Chizimba,” Mr Ngoma said.
Through DMMU, the households were provided with tents, treated mosquito nets , lighting, blankets and clothing.
“Government, in an effort to set the people off, has been providing food rations that include mealie meal, salt, beans and cooking oil,” Mr Ngoma said.
This assistance, however, is only up to July during which it is expected that the people would have found alternative land and rebuilt their houses if not lives.
Through the district commissioner’s office, the affected families have been sensitised on how to construct durable and decent housing.
Moving forward, the district office applied to DMMU for 100 metric tonnes of relief maize that will help to sustain the affected households as they rebuild their lives.
The requested maize is meant to support not only the flood victims but also some other families considering that Chama district is food- deficient due to the crop failure that affected the district in the 2017/2018 farming season.
Mr Ngoma is happy with the support from other stakeholders such as ACT Alliance Zambia, a Christian organisation formed by the ecumenical organisations that have been supporting Government through humanitarian assistance.
The members of the Alliance are the United Church of Zambia (UCZ), Reformed Church in Zambia (RCZ), the Catholic Church, World Young Women Association, Salvation Army, Norwegian Church Aid, Christian Aid and Danish Church Aid.
The Alliance believes in humanitarian aid, advocacy and development work and has over the years been active in climate change issues in the country.
In 2016, the organisation supported communities in Kashonda, Sinazongwe District of Southern Province, who were affected by drought through humanitarian aid.
In Chama District, ACT Alliance Zambia provided non-food items such as mattresses, blankets, solar lamps and mosquito nets.
“With homes destroyed, farmland submerged, water supplies disrupted, and health care and sanitation facilities inaccessible, support to such people is inevitable,” UCZ Synod projects secretary Boniface Mafwela said.
Mr Mafwela highlighted the importance of stakeholders working together to help flood victims take control of their own recovery and begin their lives afresh.
He noted that food security has been compromised at household level among the affected people, which has posed a huge challenge to their smooth recovery.
“We know for sure Government cannot provide everything, it leaves out gaps that should be complemented by other actors and this is our entry point as ACT Alliance Zambia,” he said.
While efforts have been put in place to address the challenges faced by Chama flood families, a more lasting solution for the people is under way.
Chama is among the 16 districts selected for the implementation of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) climate change mitigation and adaptation projects that will help strengthen climate resilience of agricultural livelihood and mitigate the effects of climate change.
National Designated Authority (NDA) for the Green Climate Fund national coordinator Mainga Luwabela said the project being funded in the agriculture sector will cover small farmers in 16 districts affected by the negative impact of climate change.
About one million farmers are targeted to strengthen their resilience to increasingly changing rainfall patterns in Zambia.
The programme would run for seven years as part of Government’s Farmers Input Support Programme (FISP’s) drive to diversify crops grown by Zambian farmers to help them adapt to climate change.
It is such projects that Ms Lungu and other climate -affected families have been looking forward to climate resilience.

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