WFP started dropping food into Somalia and Kenya from aircraft over the weekend, expanding its campaign by land, water and air to assist more than a million people suffering because of floods cutting roads and spreading sickness.
WFP however urgently needs US$6.7 million for its US$16.6 million Special Operation providing fixed-wing aircraft to deliver food and other humanitarian assistance by airlift, airdrop and helicopter which are ferrying supplies to areas cut off from road access by the floodwaters.
A WFP-chartered Antonov-12 cargo aircraft flying from the port of Mombasa on Saturday dropped 14 metric tons of food aid for refugee camps at Dadaab in eastern Kenya.
On Sunday, it dropped 14 tons into Afmadow district in the Lower Juba region of southern Somalia. The drop went ahead shortly after Ethiopian air strikes were reported into Somalia.
“While much of the world celebrates Christmas by feasting, we must all show our commitment to helping almost half a million Somalis now threatened by regional war breaking out -- just as they are struggling to survive the worst floods in years after the worst drought in a decade,” said Leo van der Velden, WFP Deputy Country Director for Somalia.
“The floods make access by land impossible,” said van der Velden.
“We still have 50 trucks carrying food to Afmadow stuck for the last seven weeks. Air drops are a last resort -- the roads aren’t drying up and people need food.”
Through airdrops and airlifts using planes and helicopters, WFP aims in the coming weeks to deliver 1,000 tons of food and other assistance for other UN agencies and non-governmental organisations to villagers stranded by the flooding along Somalia’s Shabelle and Juba Rivers.
Since the start of November, a total of 6,200 tons of WFP food transported by water, land and air were distributed to 300,000 people in flood-affected areas of south and central Somalia.
WFP-hired boats based in Buale on the Juba River in Middle Shabelle region have delivered 150 tons of food to communities isolated by floods and WFP-chartered Mi-8 helicopters have airlifted 40 tons of food and flown more than 90 humanitarian workers so far this month.
In eastern Kenya, more than 100,000 mainly Somali refugees were forced from their homes in the Dadaab camps by flooding that began on November 10. The floodwaters cut road access to the camps for more than a month so food, fuel and other relief supplies had to be airlifted.
An estimated 563,000 Kenyans are directly affected in six flood-hit districts in eastern and northeastern Kenya -- in addition to 520,000 other people who continue to need food in the same districts because they haven’t yet recovered from the drought that preceded the floods.
“All 160,000 refugees in the Dadaab camps have received regular distributions of food since the floods because we pre-positioned stocks,” said WFP Kenya Country Director, Burkard Oberle.
“But we need to get 970 tons of cereals in by January, so airdrops are our only way to guarantee moving this food in time.”
Rift Valley Fever
In the Tana River delta, dozens of villages are underwater and thousands of people are displaced. WFP began helicopter missions there last week. Diarrhoea from drinking contaminated water is growing, particularly among children, as are diseases such as malaria.
An outbreak of Rift Valley Fever has killed at least 11 people in eastern Kenya. WFP-chartered Mi-8 helicopters are ferrying in medical staff, medicine, food and other supplies.
“Some roads are opening up again after a dry spell but may be cut again since the rains are expected to extend into January. The airdrops will continue daily and concentrate on Kenyan communities cut off by the flood waters or where access by road is still difficult,” Oberle said.
Worst floods since 1998
WFP last used airdrops, which involve sliding bags out of the rear door of the aircraft to plunge to the ground in a cordoned-off drop zone, in Somalia and Kenya in early 1998 when El Niño floods submerged much of the region. The floods this year are the worst since then and hit many nomadic herders and subsistence farmers already left destitute by the drought.
Since the floods intensified in November, WFP has delivered food to 478,000 Kenyans cut off by the floods or indirectly affected by them. WFP-chartered planes have airlifted 20,000 litres of fuel to Dadaab and many tons of non-food assistance, including a total of 36,000 mosquito nets to the northeastern Kenyan towns of Wajir and Mandera on behalf of UNICEF.