UN appeals to aid more than 1 million African flood victims fall on deaf ears

UN appeals to aid more than 1 million African flood victims fall on deaf ears

Despite urgent appeals United Nations agencies are facing a huge shortfall in funding to help well over a million flood victims across a wide swath of sub-Saharan Africa, from Ghana in the West to Ethiopia in the east, as they face food shortages, loss of crops and even the dangers of landmines from recent conflicts dislodged by the raging waters.

Of nearly $85 million sought recently for just Uganda and Sudan, only about $1 million has been forthcoming.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) voiced deep concern over the situation of some 300,000 people in northern Uganda, the vast majority of them women and children, hit by the worst floods the country has known in decades.

The impact has been exacerbated by the conflict with rebels in the north and the fact that most families are experiencing displacement for the second time, UNICEF spokesperson Veronique Taveau told a news briefing in Geneva.

Some 200,000 people are estimated to be in need of emergency shelter, and an emergency vaccination campaign as well as the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets is already under way to try and head off a malaria outbreak. UNICEF is urgently appealing for $7.2 million to continue its aid programme for the most vulnerable, women and children.

UN World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson Christiane Berthiaume told the briefing that despite transportation difficulties, the agency had already managed to distribute 1,051 tons of food to 64,328 people in Uganda, either by truck or helicopter. With more rains forecast for October, WFP sees no alternative to airlifting food to some locations.

Ms. Berthiaume repeated the appeal the agency made last week for $64.4 million to feed not only the 300,000 flood victims, but also the 1.4 million refugees and displaced persons in Uganda. So far, no funds had been received for this operation.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) spokesperson Elizabeth Byrs said that in West Africa, as of today, some 609,000 persons had been affected by flooding in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

In Niger, OCHA’s greatest concern is the fact that the heavy rains have displaced landmines, and the risk of hitting them at any time and in any place is very high, Ms. Byrs warned. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is to make a rapid preliminary assessment of the landmine risk.

WFP, the Red Cross and the Government have provided over 1,000 metric tons of food for the nearly 50,000 flood victims in Niger, but while food aid has been assured for current and arising needs, there is a need for blankets and mosquito nets.

In Ethiopia, new flooding has been reported since the first week of September, Ms. Byrs said. Nationwide, 226,000 people are estimated to have been affected, some 5,630 hectares of crops have been destroyed and grazing lands have been inundated. The risk of additional flooding and displacement is high in the flood-prone areas as the water level is rising daily, she warned.

In Sudan, Ms. Berthiaume said WFP would be dropping food supplies to nearly 44,000 flood victims in three states in the south that were inaccessible by road. That was in addition to the food WFP has been distributing to 90,000 flood victims in other areas in the south and east.

Distribution of food to the Lakes, Jonglei and Upper Nile states is to begin in October and continue for one month. There are plans to airdrop 1,400 tons of food and ferry another 264 tons down the Nile.

The floods in Sudan, which have killed 113 people, have affected nearly half a million others, and 200,000 people are now without shelter. An inter-agency appeal for $20.2 million for flood victims in Sudan was launched in mid-August but has so far received only $1 million.