On three continents UN agencies rush aid to hundreds of thousands of flood victims

On three continents UN agencies rush aid to hundreds of thousands of flood victims

WFP-operated school feeding programme, Bolivia
The United Nations today stepped up aid to hundreds of thousands of flood victims on three continents, launching a $9.2 million flash appeal for 350,000 Bolivians, rushing in health care and $7.6 million in emergency funding for 142,000 Mozambicans, and sending food for 6,000 families in the Philippines, where an earlier $48.7 million appeal has barely been funded.

The United Nations today stepped up aid to hundreds of thousands of flood victims on three continents, launching a $9.2 million flash appeal for 350,000 Bolivians, rushing in health care and $7.6 million in emergency funding for 142,000 Mozambicans, and sending food for 6,000 families in the Philippines, where an earlier $48.7 million appeal has barely been funded.

“Bolivia is facing one of its most devastating disasters ever. The international community must show its solidarity,” Acting UN Resident Coordinator Alfredo Marty said of the South American country where the El Niño weather phenomenon has affected eight of its nine departments with flooding, landslides, drought, hail and freezing weather.

As the number of families in need rises daily, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has identified 13,000 more families in need of aid, after already providing food to over 12,000 families. The appeal is aimed to help to cover needs for the next six months.

Water supplies have been contaminated and lack of sanitation and hygiene is becoming a secondary threat to the affected population. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will lead relief agencies’ efforts to provide water and sanitation supplies, carry out technical assessments of water quality, clean contaminated wells and construct temporary latrines.

Already, flood victims have suffered increased acute respiratory infections, diarrhoeal and skin diseases, and dengue fever. The UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) will provide health care and epidemiological tracking to prevent disease outbreaks.

In the agriculture sector, where some 71,000 hectares of crops have been partially or totally lost and a large number of stranded cattle are at risk of illness and death, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will provide aid, including veterinary assistance, to help families recover their livelihoods.

UNICEF will help to rehabilitate schools, at least 282 of which have been flooded while 30 others are being used as temporary shelters, preventing children from starting classes. The agency will help to provide temporary alternative sites and supplies for children to continue their education.

In Mozambique, the UN today made more than $7.6 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) available for life-saving activities after severe flooding displaced some 142,000 people in the southern African country.

“As the situation steadily worsens in Mozambique, it is critical that we get life-saving activities up and running as quickly as possible,” Acting UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Margareta Wahlström said. “The Government of Mozambique has provided strong leadership for the international response. It is important that we support them in minimizing the impact of this disaster to the extent possible.”

WHO has sent four teams to the four worst affected provinces, where rains and winds from tropical cyclone Flavio have exacerbated flooding of the Zambezi river valley, displacing 120,000 people who are now living in overcrowded camps with poor sanitation, little access to safe drinking water and at risk of water-borne and insect-transmitted disease.

The agency will provide medicine and medical supplies, health education materials, training for community workers and technical support. Flavio seriously damaged crucial public facilities in Vilankulos – the town hit first – including hospitals and schools, and UNICEF is on standby to help. “We are ready to send emergency supplies as soon as we have access to the affected areas,” UNICEF country head of Leila Pakkala said.

Halfway around the world, WFP has provided nearly 300 more tons of rice for some 6,000 Filipino families, many of whom are still living in evacuation camps more than two months after typhoon Reming slammed into the South-East Asian country.

“It takes time to rebuild after a disaster of this scale,” WFP Country Director Valerie Guarnieri said. “The cameras have moved on to crises elsewhere, but WFP will stay with the affected communities while they repair their fishing boats, plant for the next harvest, or find new ways to make a living.”

Nearly 1 million people were originally displaced, many of whom sought refuge in schools and other evacuation centres set up by the Government, while others stayed near their homes or moved in with family and friends.

While international aid has been forthcoming, more donor contributions are still needed, WFP said. The earlier UN Appeal for $48.7 million to support food, shelter, health, water, sanitation and recovery activities is only 11 per cent funded, crippling the ability of the UN agencies and their partners to respond.