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Ethiopia: more assistance for flood victims

11-06-2003 News Release 03/67

The roads leading to the flooded areas of the Somali National Regional State are gradually becoming passable, enabling ICRC aid to reach the more isolated places along the Wabe Shebelle river.

The ICRC operation started a few weeks ago, using boats to distribute emergency non-food supplies downriver in Kelafo and Mustahil. A total of 3,000 families each received tarpaulins, blankets, cooking sets and jerrycans.

Now the roads are opening up again, the ICRC is distributing over 200 tonnes of food and 15 tonnes of maize seed to the 12,000 worst hit people in Kelafo and Mustahil, with the support of the Ethiopian Red Cross Society.

The most difficult areas to reach were East and West Imi. As a result of mud, it was taking up to five days to reach these locations, but the first ICRC trucks loaded with food, seed, shelter materials and household utensils have now arrived. The ICRC considers East and West Imi a top priority, as the floods there surprised people in the middle of the night and many families lost all their belongings, including their food reserves. The organization is currently helping 22,000 people in these areas, distributing 385 tonnes of food and 10 tonnes of maize seed.

A distressing scene confronted Beatriz Suso, an ICRC agronomist, when she reached Imi with an aid convoy. " It started to rain heavily as we arrived. The people had nowhere to shelter and were just standing in the rain. A little girl was looking at us desperately, completely alone in the middle of the camp, frightened, soaked and trembling. Many women and children showed me their hands and mouths, filthy from eating the only thing they could find: grass " .

However, there is a positive side to the floods. Places that were dry and arid a few days ago are now green. The economy of the area depends largely on flood-recession agriculture and livestoc k farming. In the medium term, both will benefit. The floods covered a wider area than in the past, so after the water recedes there will be more fertile land for agriculture and more grazing areas for cattle.

The ICRC will continue to bring relief to the flood victims until the end of the emergency.

 Further information:  

 Gianni Volpin, ICRC Addis Ababa, tel. ++25 11 51 83 66