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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 26 March, 2003, 12:33 GMT
Floods hit hungry Zambia
Zimbabwean woman sits by relief food in the Nhwali area
Some 14 million people in Southern Africa need food aid
Some 10,000 people have been left homeless after heavy rains in southern Zambia, which is already suffering from acute food shortages.

Webster Mulubisha, permanent secretary in the vice president's office, told Reuters news agency that floods had destroyed huge fields of maize and infrastructure in Gwembe district, 380 km (240 miles) south of the capital, Lusaka.

Some areas were cut off, with roads impassable and electricity and telephone supplies down, he said.

The flooding follows a severe drought which left more than a quarter of Zambia's 10 million people in need of food aid.

Some 14.4 million people across southern Africa need food aid as a result of crop failures caused by drought and flooding in some areas.

Higher ground

"Houses, including a police station, have been destroyed. There are huge craters on roads and the area is totally cut off.

"The damage is big and the government has already started giving relief food to more than 10,000 people," Mr Mulubisha said.

Thousands have fled to higher ground to escape the flooding, he said.

A senior government official estimated almost 2,000 hectares of maize, Zambia's staple food, had been destroyed in Gwembe.

The food crisis is worsened by the HIV/Aids pandemic which affects about a quarter of Zambia's population.

An improved 2002-3 rainy season has reduced the need for food aid in some parts of southern Africa.

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