WFP gives urgent help to victims of new floods in southeast Ethiopia

Published on 11 March 2006

With extensive flooding again hitting southeastern Ethiopia, WFP has said that it is working closely with the Government of Ethiopia to ensure that food aid urgently reaches tens of thousands of flood-affected people in the Somali region.

With extensive flooding again hitting southeastern Ethiopia, WFP has said that it is working closely with the Government of Ethiopia to ensure that food aid urgently reaches tens of thousands of flood-affected people in the Somali region.

The floods merely compound an already demanding situation

Mohamed Diab, WFP’s Country Director in Ethiopia.

Nearly 2,000 metric tons of cereals, pulses, vegetable oil and food fortified with vitamins and minerals are being dispatched from warehouses in Dire Dawa in eastern Ethiopia to needy children, women and men in the Somali region. Some 1,374 metric tons of grain is from WFP stocks.

As access to the flood-affected area is difficult, dropping food to survivors from aircraft is being considered.

Emergency assistance

Some emergency assistance is being flown from Dire Dawa to the Somali region administrative capital of Gode by a Hercules aircraft.

Non-food items, including 5,000 bed sheets, 20 rolls of plastic sheeting, 8,000 plastic cups and plates and 100 jerry cans have also been allocated to the flood response and will be delivered as soon as possible.

“Although it remains difficult to ascertain the exact scale of this crisis, we do know that more than 60 people have lost their lives and hundreds of thousands of people may well have been affected,” said Mohamed Diab, WFP’s Country Director in Ethiopia.

Swollen river

Excessive rains caused the water level in the Wabe Shebelle River to rise to twice its normal size and burst its banks in the last week, washing away people, livestock and infrastructure such as bridges and roads.

The two worst-hit areas are the towns of Kelafo and Mustahil, which lie 80 and 150 kilometres respectively from Gode.

“There has barely been time to regroup and recover from the devastating flash floods in August and from severe drought earlier in the year. One wonders how much an already vulnerable and fragile group of people are expected to bear. At least WFP can ensure that many of those who may have already lost everything have something to eat,” Diab said.

Over the years, the Somali region of Ethiopia has suffered from cycles of droughts and floods.

Hard hit by drought

The region was especially hard hit by drought, which covered large parts of countries in the Horn of Africa from the beginning of the year.

Some 1.5 million pastoralists and agro-pastoralists required urgent humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia as large numbers of livestock died, wells and boreholes dried up, malnutrition rates increased and disease became rampant.

Elsewhere in the Horn of Africa, WFP is monitoring localised flooding.

In northeast Kenya and southern Somalia, recent floods are hampering the transport of food aid.

Rainy season

There are fears that heavy rains during the current rainy season will worsen the situation in both countries which are downstream from Ethiopia’s swollen rivers.

This year, Ethiopia is experiencing some of the heaviest and most intense rains on record.

More than 600 people died in August following heavy downpours that led to extensive flooding in almost every part of the country and affected some 350,000 people, many of whom are still being assisted by WFP.

Delegation

On Thursday (2nd November), a high-level federal and regional government delegation arrived in Gode by helicopter to assess the extent of this latest disaster.

An inter-agency rapid assessment team, including WFP staff, was dispatched from another regional centre, Jijiga, but was unable to reach flood-affected areas because roads are washed away or can’t be reached.

“There are often logistical challenges in delivering humanitarian assistance to such a large area as Somali Region,” said Diab.

Sharing resources

“The floods merely compound an already demanding situation. But everyone is coming together, working hard and sharing resources to try to save lives and protect livelihoods.”

Donations received by WFP specifically for flood victims to date include: US$1.79 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF); US$1 million from Saudi Arabia, US$320,000 from Luxembourg and US$256,000 from Ireland The contributions are being used to buy 8,415 tons of maize, 749 tons of wheat and 280 tons of oil.