Following devastating floods in eastern Ethiopia, WFP is undertaking a rapid assessment and registration of survivors to determine the immediate food needs of an estimated 10,000 people left homeless by flash floods.
The onus is really on the whole humanitarian community to act, and act speedily to settle the affected families in more permanent structures
Abnezer Ngowi, WFP Acting Country Director in Ethiopia
Thousands of people are camped out in temporary shelters such as tents and schools, as rescue workers use bulldozers and digging equipment to clear mud and sand dumped in Dire Dawa town and the surrounding areas after the Dechatu River burst its banks on Saturday night.
Some 220 people are known to have died, although officials say the death toll is likely to rise because more than 300 people are still reported missing.
The floods swept away houses, vehicles and animals and destroyed markets and shops.
“For now communities are safe, being sheltered and offered medical assistance,’ said Abnezer Ngowi, WFP Acting Country Director in Ethiopia.
"But the number of displaced people sheltering in schools is in the thousands, and we must remember that children who have been on holiday will need to return to their classrooms in a few weeks,” he said.
WFP is working closely with the Government of Ethiopia in the eastern town of Dire Dawa since Thursday to register men, women and children driven from their homes by the floods so that food can be properly targeted and distributed to those who need it most within the next few days.
WFP in lead role
WFP is taking the lead role among UN agencies and non-governmental organisations in coordinating the delivery of general relief assistance.
“Everyone appreciates the need to move quickly and to help people, many of whom have nothing but the clothes on their backs, in whatever way we can.
The extensive flooding, destruction and subsequent loss of life has brought about what can only be described as a humanitarian disaster,” Ngowi said.
Once the assessment and registration is complete, survivors will swiftly receive a food ration consisting of cereals, vegetable oil, vitamin and mineral enriched blended food and salt to last for one month.
WFP food is already on the ground in Dire Dawa for distribution.
“We have deployed logistics officers, field monitors and staff from our offices in Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa to assist our UN colleagues and the local administration in the relief effort,” said Ngowi.
WFP’s head office in Addis Ababa has established a task force to support and monitor the emergency operation in Dire Dawa, Ngowi added.
“The onus is really on the whole humanitarian community to act, and act speedily to settle the affected families in more permanent structures, but also to help the government in enhancing prevention and preparedness mechanisms to deal with recurrent flooding in the country,” said Ngowi.
Floods are relatively common in eastern and southern Ethiopia during the rainy season between June and September when heavy rains in the highland areas flow unchecked into lower lying land.
Heavy rainfall in Ethiopia also often has an impact on neighbouring Somalia.
Rains in the Ethiopian highlands caused the Shabelle River to burst its banks last week in Jowhar and Balad districts.
Large stretches of agricultural land were inundated just as villagers were about to harvest their crops after a series of poor seasons because of drought and patchy rainfall.
"We are monitoring the situation very closely and are ready with relief assistance as needed," said Leo van der Velden, WFP’s Acting Country Director for Somalia.
WFP, he added, had food stocks in place in both Mogadishu and Merka, 100 kilometres to the south of the capital.