UN agencies rush to help as deadly floods hit Horn of Africa

26 April 2005

United Nations agencies in the Horn of Africa have swung into action after days of torrential rains caused severe flooding in Ethiopia and Somalia and left more than 40 people dead, swept away entire villages and destroyed critical farmlands.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the relief agencies have been scrambling to get food and basic supplies to desperate families after crashing floodwaters from the cresting Wabe Shabelle River and driving rain had battered both Somalia and Ethiopia for the past two days.

The World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) have mobilized teams. UNICEF distributed non-food items such as blankets, plastic sheets and jerry cans, while WFP gave out cereals, pulses and oil to affected families.

The flooding has not only led to deaths and displacement but also to extensive property damage – flattening about 35 villages and downing bridges and power lines, OCHA said. Many people have their crops in the flood, increasing food insecurity and economic hardship in a region suffering from prolonged drought conditions. Areas of the Somali region of Ethiopia remain at risk due to the rising river level.

The Ethiopian Government is responding, and local officials report that current needs include food, shelter, blankets and utensils and medical care due to the potential increase of cases of malaria and water-borne diseases, OCHA said.

In Somalia, Hargeisa – the main city in the Somaliland region – was hit on Sunday evening. The floods washed away one of the two bridges in the south-western part of the city and damaged huts and houses on the banks of the river as well as electric power lines.

The destruction of the bridge limits the accessibility and mobility of the population around the city, affecting daily activities such as commuting to work, school and accessing hospitals and markets. Some 170 households have been affected, OCHA said.

 

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