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Update No. 97/03 on ICRC activities to assist flood victims in Somalia and Ethiopia

01-12-1997 Operational Update




It has now been confirmed that 1,300 people have lost their lives in Somalia and a further 224,000 have been displaced. At least 9,000 houses have been destroyed and thousands of livestock have been lost. In Ethiopia, 300 deaths have been reported, 65,000 people have been displaced and 4,000 houses have been destroyed. Heavy rains continue and caused new and widespread floods downstream in Shabelle, where the river burst its banks and, for the first time since 1961, joined with the Juba river.

Despite limited logistical means and difficult weather conditions, the ICRC has managed to deliver much of its planned assistance as outlined in Updates 1 and 2 earlier this month. Since the airbridge started on 11 November, ICRC teams have brou ght medical, food, shelter materials and blankets to over 90,000 people affected by the flooding in Somalia. Over 20,000 people have been assisted in Belet Huen, 10,000 in Luuq and Burdubo, 20,000 in Bardera and 40,000 in Marere/Jilib. In addition to providing emergency relief supplies, these missions have also facilitated the information-gathering exercise, thus enabling a more detailed analysis of the situation.

Regular consultation and coordination within the Red Cross Movement at headquarters and field level and with other humanitarian agencies should ensure that the problems caused by ongoing food shortages and longer-term consequences of the floods on both rural and urban populations of Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia are addressed.



(See table below for details of assistance delivered.)

 Belet Huen:  Between 22-25 November, an ICRC nurse, a water and sanitation team and two assistants together with the Somali Red Crescent Society (SRCS) carried out a three-day mission aimed at providing clean water and trench latrines in the IDP camp. Two water points, one south of the camp and the other at the health post provide 117,000 litres of clean water per day. Six trench latrines have already been set up and work on a further four is ongoing.

A team of three people continue to work at the ICRC/SRCS health post, treating those affected by malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory infection on a day-to-day basis. During the past week, 1,604 patients have been treated.

All ICRC operations in Belet Huen are carried out with the valuable support of SRCS volunteers.

 Bardera:    Distribution of food and non-food assistance for 22,500 people is now completed.

 Buaale: On the 18th and 21st November, after numerous frustrated attempts, two air rotations were finally successful in bringing the much-needed assistance to the 8,000 people stranded there.

 Sako:  Despite almost daily attempts, the ICRC has been unable to land its plane on Buaale's water-logged airstrip.   Nevertheless, efforts continue and the ICRC hopes to be able to deliver rations of high-protein biscuits shortly.

 Jilib-Marere:    After a 10-day journey, the ICRC has finally been able to deliver 22 truck-loads (170 mt) of medical, food and non-food items to 41,000 people in the region left stranded by the flooding for 18 days. Hampered by bad weather 60 km from Jilib (and only able to proceed after the local community laid sand bags on the road), the trucks became stuck again when flash-floods made the final 15 km of road impassable. Together with SRCS volunteers and the local community, the ICRC had to unload all the goods from the trucks onto boats for distribution to the victims.

West of Jilib, hundreds of lepers who were forced to leave their village in order to take refuge on a dyke have been assisted by an ICRC/SRCS team and the local community. The ICRC has identified families needing assistance in three additional villages in the vicinity (Kalenje, Fungamoyo and Armale) and is formulating plans to assist them.

The following table shows assistance delivered and the number of beneficiaries (five people per family) targeted in areas surveyed by the ICRC to date.


(from 07.11.97 to 30.11.97)


 People (targeted)  


















































distributions ongoing








no access

Jilib / Marere







3 trucks remaining

Belet Huen







3 trucks remaining


























Supported by the ICRC, the Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS) has been working with the Disaster Prevention Preparedness Commission (DPPC), regional and zo nal health bureaus and the Ethiopian Defence Forces (EDF) to coordinate assistance to the especially hard-hit areas of south-eastern Ethiopia. In addition to planning longer-term assistance, the task force which is chaired by a widely-respected leader of elders (Ugaz) is co-ordinating helicopter deliveries on a daily basis.

With four helicopters (two from the French forces and two from the EDF) and a Dash-6 at its disposal, the task force has been able to deliver food, shelter and medical assistance to families in the Gode and Afder zones. An ERCS/health bureau team was transported on one such flight to Bare in order to carry out an evaluation. This same joint health committee is planning specific priority assistance to be supervised by local health personnel and the Red Cross.

Three rotations of ERCS/ICRC-chartered Hercules delivered 10,000 blankets, 80,000 sq mt of plastic sheeting, 5,000 jerrycans, 5,000 cooking pots, dispensary and paediatric sets for 25,000 people in Gode. Also during 24/25 November, sufficient veterinary medicines (1.8 mt) were supplied for the treatment of around 430,000 camels, cattle, sheep and goats.



Distributions of 538 mt of sorghum, sesame and vegetable seeds and some 2,300 mt of food as seed protection for up t o 200,000 people are planned so that planting can be carried out in Somalia as soon as flood-waters recede. The first to benefit from this programme will be those in Gedo and West Bay areas where water levels are most likely to recede first. Due to the geographical, political and conflictual constraints in this region, the seeds for 40,000 people need to be transported from Nairobi by air. The ICRC is currently sourcing an aircraft to facilitate this operation.

Other ICRC agricultural surveys are ongoing. Specialists have just arrived in Belet Huen, for example, to carry out an assessment of the situation there.

An additional plan to provide seeds for some 50,000 people in Ethiopia is also being finalized.


Flooded sanitation systems and stagnant water provide excellent breeding grounds for malaria, dysentery, cholera and typhoid fever; exposure to rain and cold, lack of adequate food and safe drinking water all increase the incidence of these infectious diseases. In addition to delivering high-protein biscuits, shelter and medical supplies which help reduce risks of epidemics, the ICRC is continuing to coordinate with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and other organizations to formulate a longer-term medical strategy for the region.

 Water and Sanitation  

As reported in the last update, short-term water and sanitation activities continue to focus on the displaced. In places such as Belet Huen, the ICRC has constructed temporary latrines and ensured access to safe drinking water.

Longer-term plans for well disinfection programmes and rehabilitation can be implemented once the flood-waters have receded.