Flood crisis deepens in 22 African countries
Fresh rainfalls and slow relief have deepened the humanitarian crisis caused by record floods in Africa that have affected more than 1,5-million people and killed at least 300, aid agencies warned on Tuesday.
The worst floods in three decades have now affected 22 countries, displacing hundreds of thousands and starkly raising the risk of epidemics.
The worst-hit country since unprecedented downpours swept across the continent in August has been conflict-wracked Sudan, where the United Nations said up to 625Â 000 people could be in need of emergency aid.
Africa’s largest country has been hit by several waves of torrential rainfalls in different regions and the floods have worsened a cholera outbreak that has already caused 68 deaths.
“At least 100Â 000 additional people have been directly affected by the latest wave of flooding in Sudan, which has destroyed homes, as well as food stocks and essential household supplies,” the UN said in a statement.
In neighbouring Uganda, at least 400Â 000 people are awaiting relief in north-eastern regions where flooding has complicated aid delivery.
Fresh rain in western Ethiopia has brought renewed flooding to the town of Gambella and its region, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs said, raising the number of affected Ethiopians to 226Â 000.
Donors scrambled to avert what aid agencies have warned could evolve into a deadlier crisis causing long-term food shortages in some of the world’s poorest countries.
The United States announced on Monday that it has already allocated $500Â 000 dollars in contributions to the relief effort in Uganda. “The cumulative effects of the rainfall have begun to compromise the structural integrity of many dirt homes, contaminate wells, inundate latrines, and wash away seeds,” the US Agency for International Development said.
The European Union and several other countries have pledged millions to fight the crisis.
The disaster crippled the continent even as world leaders discussed climate change at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The torrential rains and floods that have ravaged sub-Saharan Africa are believed by some experts to be caused by the “La NiÃ±a” weather pattern, thousands of kilometres away in the Pacific Ocean.
Several government officials have warned that the floods are a wake-up call for the world, and especially the poorest countries, to increase their preparedness for disasters induced by climate change.
The floods caught governments and aid agencies off guard, as heavy rains are common in August and September in many of the affected countries.
Kenya announced on Monday it will spend $97-million to bolster flood defences in the west of the country, where at least 15 people have died as a result of the floods since August.
In Ghana, one of the worst hit countries on the Atlantic coast, about 140Â 000 people were made homeless. In Burkina Faso, the government said at least 33 people have died since August.
Torrential rains and menacingly high waters in Niger have displaced landmines, sparking fears of explosions as the risk of hitting one is increased, the UN said. Nearly 50Â 000 people have been affected by the flooding in Niger, one of the driest countries in Africa.
“Of great concern is also the fact that heavy unexpected rains have resulted in displacing landmines. The risk of hitting them any time at any place is very high,” said a UN statement, which added a team was sent to assess the situation.
Aid agencies have made numerous appeals for emergency funding to address the floods.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) pledged on Tuesday to use all its resources to help African nations hit by flooding. Jacques Diouf, FAO director general, said in a statement that the cost of assisting affected farming communities in East and West Africa is about $12-million. He also expressed fears that the large-scale flooding could be the result of climate change.
The FAO is finalising flood damage assessments in Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, Mali and other affected countries.
The World Food Programme said on Tuesday that it will begin air drops of food in Sudan next month in areas cut off by severe flooding. The air drops in three southern Sudanese states will begin in October and last for about a month.
“The WFP will carry out the air drops to help 43Â 800 victims of floods in three states in southern Sudan,” WFP spokesperson Christiane Berthiaume said. “It will last one month and the aim is to drop 1Â 440 tonnes of supplies ... because the roads in these areas are impassable, it’s not possible to go there,” she said.
Another 89Â 000 people in the country are receiving WFP food aid due to the floods.
The delay before the start of the air drops is due to planning needs for the operation, Berthiaume said.—Sapa-dpa, Sapa-AFP