WFP starts food distributions to survivors of floods in eastern Ethiopia

Published on 15 August 2006

WFP has begun emergency food distributions that will reach 10,000 men, women and children hit by flash floods in the Dire Dawa region of eastern Ethiopia.

WFP has begun emergency food distributions that will reach 10,000 men, women and children hit by flash floods in the Dire Dawa region of eastern Ethiopia.

A speedy response and close collaboration between the government, WFP, other UN agencies and non-governmental organisations has probably saved lives and averted an even bigger catastrophe

Abnezer Ngowi, WFP Acting Country Director in Ethiopia

With much of the region's infrastructure damaged and hundreds of homes washed away, food distributions to an initial 2,000 survivors took place in temporary shelters, such as makeshift schools and mobile health clinics. Further food distributions are planned for the coming weeks.

Working closely with the Government of Ethiopia and partners, WFP will distribute a total of 150 metric tons of cereals, 15 tons of food fortified with vitamins and minerals, 5 tons of vegetable oil and half a ton of salt to the survivors most in need.

The rations are sufficient to feed 10,000 people for one month. Plastic sheeting, cooking utensils and jerry cans from WFP's stocks in Dire Dawa will also be distributed.

"Cruel blow"

"The extensive flooding was a cruel blow for already vulnerable people, many of whom have now lost everything, including their families," said Abnezer Ngowi, WFP Acting Country Director in Ethiopia.

"WFP is stepping in to ensure that they are assisted and do not have to go hungry."

A total of 254 people are confirmed dead after heavy rains caused the Dechatu River to burst its banks on 6 August and overflowed into Dire Dawa town and six surrounding villages.

Missing

Almost 300 people are still missing. Hundreds of houses have been washed away, and extensive damage has been caused to both public and private property.

Telephone and electricity lines have been brought down and stretches of railway line and bridges destroyed.

School classrooms and disused warehouses in six locations throughout Dire Dawa town are being used to shelter the homeless and displaced.

Many people were asleep when the flash floods stuck in the early hours of 6 August. Eyewitnesses spoke of a wall of water crashing against their houses and demolishing everything in its path.

Bigger catastrophe averted

"A speedy response and close collaboration between the government, WFP, other UN agencies and non-governmental organisations has probably saved lives and averted an even bigger catastrophe," said Ngowi.

"For example, the local emergency search and rescue services were on the scene very quickly. And the local administration found funds almost immediately to help households to buy bread."

"But the emergency response must continue in earnest. The flood waters may have subsided, but now the huge task of ensuring that disease does not break out, that infrastructure is rehabilitated and that people's immediate needs are met, has just begun," Ngowi added.

Flooding is an almost annual event in southern and eastern Ethiopia, especially between June and September.