Urgent appeals sounded for Africa flood relief

Aid agencies have appealed for millions of dollars to help more than one million Africans affected by deadly floods that have swept across the continent.

The floods have killed at least 200 people and displaced hundreds of thousands in 17 countries since the summer, including Burkina Faso, Ghana and Togo in the west, and Sudan, Uganda and Kenya in the central and eastern regions.

“If we don’t get food people will die in this place,” Francis Aruo (28) said on Friday in eastern Uganda, one of the hardest-hit regions of Africa. “All our crops are rotten.”

The United Nations asked for $43-million for Uganda, where 50 people have died. Theophane Nikyema, UN humanitarian coordinator for Uganda, said the money will help address the “devastation left behind by the rising tide of water”.

The Netherlands said it will donate â,¬11-million. Sudan will get â,¬7-million, Uganda will receive â,¬2-million and the rest will be sent to other West African states, the Dutch government said.

The British Red Cross also announced an urgent appeal and sent relief experts to Africa to help raise money for shelter and water-purification tablets, according to a statement issued on Thursday.

The European Commission is planning to send $15,5-million in humanitarian aid, said Louis Michel, the European commissioner for development and humanitarian aid. The United States was sending $100 000 for Uganda, said Steven Browning, the country’s US ambassador.

Taking shelter

In Uganda’s Amuria district, which was put under a state of emergency this week, more than 500 people were taking shelter in a seven-room school house, which was meant to open for a new term last week.

“It’s a struggle for accommodations,” said Gilbert Omeke, the school’s head teacher. “Some people are fighting for space. I have designated one classroom for expectant mothers and the elderly, but so many more don’t find space.”

The UN Children’s Fund was distributing basic disease-prevention kits, including plastic sheeting and water-purification tablets, but medical officials said illnesses were spreading.

Florence Asega, a nurse at the closest health clinic to the school, about 5km away, said malaria cases and diarrhoea among children were becoming increasingly common. “In the cramped, wet conditions coughs and infections spread quickly,” she added.

In nearby Katakwi district, latrines were overflowing and hundreds of mud huts had collapsed. The nearest World Food Programme distribution site was 6km away, through waist-high flood water.

Aruo has made the journey twice so far, carrying 30kg of maize, groundnuts and cooking oil back for his wife and three children. “It’s a very tedious journey because it is water the whole way, the food is very heavy and some people have to leave some behind because they can’t carry it,” he said.

In the West African nation of Burkina Faso, where about 24 000 people were displaced by flooding that started in June, the government was setting up hundreds of tents for more than 3 000 people still unable to return to their homes.

Government officials said the 400 eight-person tents donated by Morocco should make it possible to start classes in schools that had become temporary housing for those who fled the rising water.

Thirty-three people have died from the flooding in Burkina Faso, according to government figures. As the rain has slackened in recent weeks, the focus has shifted to getting food and medical supplies to decimated communities.

Besides immediate issues of survival, the floods will have a lasting effect on many Africans’ food supplies because so many crops were washed away. “A lot of farmers have lost their crops and the harvest was due in a month’s time,” said Stephanie Savariaud, spokesperson for the World Food Programme in West Africa.—Sapa-AP

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