Two Mi-8 helicopters carrying emergency supplies have left to deliver humanitarian assistance to hundreds of thousands of people stranded by another spate of floods this month in the Somali region of southeastern Ethiopia, WFP said.
The situation in Somali region is absolutely critical, and thousands upon thousands of men, women and children need our most urgent help
WFP Country Director in Ethiopia Mohamed Diab
“Unless emergency relief supplies reach people very quickly, lives may be lost,” said WFP Country Director in Ethiopia Mohamed Diab.
“The government, UN agencies and humanitarian partners have worked around the clock to get supplies to those in need.”
“But many trucks laden with food and medicine were stranded in mud and have been unable to reach all communities. The fastest means of reaching some areas now is by helicopter.”
The helicopters today left Gode town, the regional administrative capital, for Mustahil, one of the worst-affected areas largely cut off since the flooding began in late October. Some 65,000 people in Mustahil alone are estimated to be in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.
The helicopters will be travelling to Kelafo and East Imi, two other areas hard hit by the floods, in the next few days.
WFP chartered the helicopters as part of a fleet of aircraft for its flood response operations in the Horn of Africa.
The helicopters arrived in Addis Ababa on Tuesday from Abuja in Nigeria.
Lead logistical role
The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) will cover the cost of the air operation with WFP Ethiopia taking the lead logistical role.
The government pre-positioned 530 tons of food in Gode town for distribution through the air operation.
To date, the government has dispatched almost 2,000 tons to areas hit by the floods. As of Tuesday, more than 600 tons of food had already been distributed in parts of Kelafo and Mustahil where trucks recently managed to arrive after many days of arduous travel on very treacherous roads.
Flooding has killed 80 people and destroyed roads, bridges and property across the region.
An estimated 362,000 people have lost their livelihoods and 122,500 of them are displaced.
Humanitarian agencies fear that malaria and water-borne diseases such as acute watery diarrhoea will spread through flood-affected areas, worsening the already difficult situation.
In response, UN agencies and the Government have also sent non-food items, including medical supplies, blankets, water purification sets, cooking pots, plastic sheeting and seeds to Gode town.
Some of those supplies will be airlifted by WFP helicopters to reach the flood victims.
On 23 November, the government launched a US$7 million joint flash appeal for non-food items such as shelter, health, water and sanitation and agricultural interventions and for assistance with the logistical costs to support flood-affected people in the Somali region.
The appeal followed recommendations by the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness National Committee, and came after a high-level mission to the flooded areas led by the Deputy Prime Minister.
“The situation in Somali region is absolutely critical, and thousands upon thousands of men, women and children need our most urgent help,” said Diab.
“These floods have increased the vulnerability and food insecurity of so many families. Who knows how long it will take for this situation to be remedied.”
“All humanitarian partners are fully engaged and committed to averting a bigger humanitarian catastrophe.”
Earlier this year, the Somali region was hard hit by the Horn of Africa drought in Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Ethiopia that left 8.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.
In the Somali region of Ethiopia, 1.6 million people suffered as they lost their livelihoods, their animals died, their watering holes dried up and malnutrition rates increased.