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Somalia/Ethiopia: Flood victims need urgent help

13-11-1997 News Release 97/45

The ICRC has this week launched an emergency relief operation for the victims of flooding in Somalia brought about by torrential rains that have caused the Shabele and Juba rivers to overflow their banks. ICRC pilots transporting humanitarian aid have reported that, in some places, the rivers are eight kilometres wider than usual. The swollen waters have washed away entire villages, recently sown maize and sorghum crops, patiently built irrigation canals, food and seed supplies and livestock. The situation is nothing short of a catastrophe, with an estimated half-million persons affected in southern Somalia alone.

The ICRC has dispatched personnel by road from Mogadishu to the areas surrounding the flooded towns of Jilib and Marere, in the Middle Juba district. Further north along the Juba river, staff have been flown in to the town of Buale in order to gather precise information on the number of victims and devise the best way to reach them. They have so far identified at least 10,000 families in need of aid.

ICRC aircraft have delivered high-energy biscuits, blankets and tarpaulins to some 3,000  households in the towns of Luuq and Burdubo, in Gedo district. Owing to the absence of dry firewood, these biscuits are for the moment the only food available for immediate consumption. A further 10,000 households should benefit from ICRC aid in the immediate future if the weather, and the state of the landing strips, permit.

In Ethiopia -- unlike Somalia, where there is no national authority or State structure -- the government has taken prompt relief action. While food n eeds are being covered by the government, the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, supported by the ICRC, is focusing on the distribution of essential non-food items (blankets, plastic sheeting, jerrycans, etc.) and basic medical supplies, as well as seed to enable agriculture to resume immediately.