Development Features

Rain: A blessing to some, curse to others

DEPUTY Minister in the Office of the Vice-President Lawrence Sichalwe (left) visiting Jim Kayombo, one of the victims of a recent heavy downpour, who is currently accommodated in a tent in Livingstone. PICTURE: SHIKANDA KAWANGA

ALTHOUGH the rain is widely welcomed in Zambia as it marks the onset of the planting season for farmers, the majority of Zambians that live in urban areas dread the annual downpours that bring death, disease and destruction.
For many Zambians, heavy rain means flooding which causes catastrophic problems in residential areas but on the other hand, it means a good yield for farmers.
Countrywide, most of the affected houses were built on illegal settlements without proper town planning.
Unfortunately, the majority of the population lives in these high density and unplanned settlements with mostly unsafe structures which are without proper sanitation.
When there is a heavy downpour, these houses and structures collapse and the rain water mixes with sewage which poses a toxic health risk.
One of the main consequences of flooding is diarrhoea, a disease transmitted by exposure to garbage, lack of sanitary care and dirty drinking water.
According to a report by the World Bank called Economic Impact of Poor Sanitation in Africa – Zambia; diarrhoea claims about 6600 deaths in children and 8700 in adults in Zambia annually.
In Livingstone, three places namely Nakatindi, Namatama extension and Ngwenya are the waste hit residential areas when torrential rains are experienced.
However, 78-year-old Jim Kayombo’s house was not spared during the recent heavy rains which characterised Livingstone on January 26, this year.
Mr Kayombo’s house, which is located in Livingstone’s Nakatindi township, collapsed leaving him homeless.
“My house collapsed as it was raining. All the things in my house are gone. I’m pleading with government to make me a better house. I have no one to help me as all my children died and my wife also died,”’ he says.
Mr Kayombo was given a tent as a temporal shelter awaiting for well-wishers to help him put up a strong structure that can withstand heavy rains.
“I want to thank Government through the provincial Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) for quickly giving me a tent even if it is temporal, otherwise I’m just requesting for help to put up a permanent structure,” he says.
Mr Kayombo, who is living with a disability, says he only depends on making bathing swabs which he sells at five kwacha each to enable him buy food.
And for Ndoma, 65, and her husband Muteshi Chitanga, 68, of Nakatindi township, the situation is no different from that of Mr Kayombo as their house also collapsed, leaving them with their eight children in the cold.
The couple, which was given one tent, has asked for extra shelter from the neighbour to accommodate their children.
“We have nowhere to keep some of the household properties,” he says.
Mr Muteshi, who sells firewood, says the business has been tough as people do not buy because the wood is wet during the rainy season.
And Mandalena Kambale, 83, a mother of one female child, said on the fateful day, her house was flooded up to knee level and all the food was washed away with the floods.
Married to Mr Kambale, who is blind, she says she has no one to help her. She is requesting Government to help her with food and construction of a two room house as her house was slightly damaged and is not safe anymore.
However, these are the plights of some of the homeless people that were disadvantaged by the rains.
About 30 residents in Livingstone are facing this dilemma and some township roads were also washed away.
Livingstone district commissioner Omar Munsanje describes the situation as a disaster which requires urgent attention. His office will work with the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) to rectify the problem.
“In as much as we have been praying for the rains, it is sad that the rains have left a trail of destruction, most roads have been washed away and some people have been left homeless,” Mr Munsanje says.
Livingstone town clerk Vivian Chikoti says the local authority, who also rushed to the affected areas, said the local authority would immediately respond to the crisis.
Ms Chikoti said the Livingstone City Council had allocated K20, 000 and 220 litres of fuel in each ward to address various challenges.
In Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region, Zambia is one of the countries highly affected by severe weather and extreme climate events. Studies in the sub-region suggest that losses due to flooding have increased in frequency over the past two decades and have adverse effect on communities and the economy of the sub-region.
In fact, in Zambia it is estimated that 75 percent of all disasters are attributed to weather conditions.
In the last 2014/2015 rainy season, the floods affected 20,000 households and destroyed 5,000 homes in the Southern Province alone.

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