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Somalia: flood control in the Juba Valley

13-03-1997 News Release 97/09

The ICRC has just completed the first phase of a major project in southern Somalia's Juba Valley to protect against flooding, which destroys crops and causes severe hardship for thousands of farming families every year. The project, launched following a survey along a 200-km stretch of the Juba Valley, aims to rehabilitate more than 100 damaged sections of dykes built to protect fields bordering the Juba River. Already, the four worst-hit sections, all located south of Jilib and totalling 1.5 km in length, have been repaired.

The main problems are erosion of the riverbank on which the dykes are built; overflowing during major floods, which washes the dykes away; damage caused by farmers who dig into the dykes to irrigate their fields; and termite infestation, which weakens the structure until breaches occur. Most of the dykes, originally constructed by the former Somali government, have not undergone any systematic repairs or maintenance since the early 1990s.

According to ICRC experts, the US$500,000 rehabilitation project, which involves carrying out repairs to just under 8 km of the dyke structure, will help reduce the threat of flooding and improve food security for farmers and all the people who depend on them. The project is being undertaken in close cooperation with the local communities, which have provided teams of labourers to do the work, using heavy machinery and equipment made available by the ICRC. Construction is scheduled to be completed by mid-May.

During last year's floods - the worst for more than a decade - tens of thousands of hectares of crops for the Gu season, which is the main growing season in Somalia, were washed away. In a bid to make up for the shortfall, ICRC staff distributed new seed to some 20,000 farmers and supplied sandbags to shore up the river banks as a stopgap measure. The ICRC has been supporting communities in the Juba Valley for more than two years through a variety of health, agricultural, veterinary and sanitation programmes, and has been providing them with food and other relief.