Namibia - Background

During the response phase the UN-SPIDER team directly supports disaster-stricken countries by ensuring access to the “International Charter Space and Major Disasters” and other existing international mechanisms or opportunities. To illustrate the extent of the support being routinely provided by UN-SPIDER the March 2008 floods in Namibia is detailed.

A severe flood in the central northern regions of Namibia, which started at the end of January, reached its peak around mid-March. The Namibian government declared a state of emergency on 5 March. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), southern Angola and northern Namibia were expected to receive heavy rains over the following days. The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF), asked for international support regarding satellite images and the involvement of an emergency mechanism to receive these images on a priority bass, of higher resolution and not obscured by cloud cover.

On 7 March the responsible officer was contacted by a UN-SPIDER expert via telephone and he was informed about the possibilities of activating the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters" with the support of a UN agency located in Namibia. Furthermore, the officer from the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry was informed about further potential data sources such as ALOS data from JAXA, the Dartmouth Laboratory with its global flood assessments, the Satellite Applications Centre in South Africa with its receiving station and the Center for satellite based Crisis Information (DLR/ZKI) including the access to radar images from the TerraSAR-X satellite.

During the subsequent discussions it became clear that due to the type of flooding, the vegetation cover, soil and weather conditions as further influencing parameters high resolution radar images were the favourable base. A request to provide satellite imagery for northern and north-eastern regions of Namibia came to UNOOSA from the country office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Namibia. Subsequently, on 14 March, 2008, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) triggered the International Charter to help Namibia in its combat against the crucial impacts of the floods and the outbreak of cholera.

UN-SPIDER provided support and followed-up closely with both UNDP and the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry of Namibia, helping the country to take full advantage of what the international community was providing. Two officials of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry also had the opportunity to participate in the Second United Nations International UN-SPIDER Bonn Workshop: "Disaster Management and Space Technology - Bridging the Gap" in Bonn, Germany, 13 to 15 October 2008 providing a feed-back on the lessons learned.