WFP has launched a regional air operation to provide fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters to transport aid workers and humanitarian assistance to more than a million people in Somalia and Kenya hit by the worst floods in years.
Even without the floods, Somalia is one of the most difficult places to deliver assistance in the world”
Peter Goossens, WFP Somalia Country Director
“The hundreds of thousands of people driven from their homes in both Somalia and Kenya by the floods need our help right now and delivering assistance by air is the only option with large numbers of them cut off by the floodwaters,” said Burkard Oberle, WFP’s Country Director in Kenya.
“The floods knocked out bridges and have made many roads impassable so we urgently need funding for this operation to get the planes and the helicopters in the air.”
The US$11.4 million, three-month Special Operation will provide: one medium-sized aircraft to airlift aid into flood-affected areas of southern Somalia; one large Ilyushin-76 aircraft to airdrop food into Somalia and Kenya; two heavy-lift helicopters to deliver aid in Somalia and two other heavy-lift helicopters to ferry food and other aid to survivors in northeastern Kenya.
One or two short take-off and landing fixed-wing aircraft would also be chartered to ensure deliveries to Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya.
In Somalia, it is estimated that 900,000 people will need food and other assistance in the next three months because of floods.
Conflict, poor roads and the harsh environment hamper aid operations and heavy rains in Ethiopia raise the prospect of more widespread flooding along the Juba and Shabelle rivers.
“Even without the floods, Somalia is one of the most difficult places to deliver assistance in the world,” said Peter Goossens, WFP Country Director for Somalia.
“So with the waters still rising, this operation is the only way to get food and other assistance to those who are in very desperate need.”
If the flooding worsens, WFP will mobilise more aircraft, depending on the needs.
In another development, a WFP-chartered Boeing 747 will fly – in the next 24 hours – the first of 190 metric tons of high energy biscuits from Brindisi, Italy, to Nairobi for WFP.
The biscuits, which will be used as emergency food for flood victims, will then be ferried by air to the worst-hit parts of Kenya.
The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund has provided a total of US$5.5 million to WFP to kickstart the regional air operation.
WFP will establish main air bases at the Kenyan port of Mombasa and the eastern city of Garissa for the aircraft carrying aid supplies.
In Kenya, some 200,000 people in the north and coastal areas who were being fed by WFP cannot be reached by road.
In addition, 160,000 mainly Somali refugees in three camps at Dadaab in eastern Kenya are cut off from supplies with WFP-contracted trucks stuck in mud en route.
A WFP-chartered aircraft on Thursday and Friday conducted surveillance over the flood-affected areas of Kenya.
Low-lying Dadaab near the border with Somalia was the worst-affected location and dozens of trucks were visible stranded on dirt roads transformed into a mire.
A WFP-chartered aircraft also conducted aerial surveillance along the Shabelle river in Somalia over the weekend and a WFP-chartered helicopter will start airlifting teams to make on-the-ground assessments of people’s needs in the worst-hit parts of Kenya from Tuesday.
Experts estimate that the situation is not currently as bad as the El Niño floods of 1997 that put much of eastern Kenya under water, but the short rains are expected to last until December or longer so conditions in both Somalia and Kenya are likely to deteriorate further.
The United Nations currently estimates that a total of up to 1.8 million people are affected by the floods in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.
In addition to the life-threatening rising waters, cholera outbreaks have been reported and the toll from diseases such as malaria is expected to rise.
The floods followed a regional drought earlier this year that killed large numbers of livestock and left millions of nomadic herders reliant on food aid and other assistance even after the rains.