UN agency sends food for tens of thousands of flood victims in

With extensive flooding again hitting south-eastern Ethiopia, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is sending nearly 2,000 metric tons of cereals, pulses, vegetable oil and food fortified with vitamins for tens of thousands of people affected by the disaster in the country’s Somali region.“Although it remains difficult to ascertain the exact scale of this crisis, we do know that more than 60 people have lost their lives and hundreds of thousands of people may well have been affected,” WFP Country Director Mohamed Diab said today. As access to the flood-affected area is difficult, dropping food to survivors from aircraft is being considered. Excessive rains caused the water level in the Wabe Shebelle River to rise to twice its normal size and burst its banks in the last week, washing away people, livestock and infrastructure such as bridges and roads. “There has barely been time to regroup and recover from the devastating flash floods in August and from severe drought earlier in the year. One wonders how much an already vulnerable and fragile group of people are expected to bear. At least WFP can ensure that many of those who may have already lost everything have something to eat,” Mr. Diab said. Over the years, the Somali region of Ethiopia has suffered from cycles of droughts and floods. Working closely with the Government, WFP is sending the food from warehouses in Dire Dawa in eastern Ethiopia, with some 1,375 metric tons of grain coming from agency stocks.Some emergency assistance is being flown from Dire Dawa to the Somali region administrative capital of Gode by a Hercules aircraft. Non-food items, including 5,000 bed sheets, 20 rolls of plastic sheeting, 8,000 plastic cups and plates and 100 jerry cans have also been allocated and will be delivered as soon as possible. The region was especially hard hit by drought, which covered large parts of countries in the Horn of Africa from the beginning of the year, when 1.5 million pastoralists and agro-pastoralists required urgent humanitarian aid as large numbers of livestock died, wells and boreholes dried up, malnutrition rates increased and disease became rampant. Elsewhere in the Horn of Africa, WFP is monitoring localized flooding. In northeast Kenya and southern Somalia, recent floods are hampering the transport of food aid. There are fears that heavy rains during the current rainy season will worsen the situation in both countries which are downstream from Ethiopia’s swollen rivers. This year, Ethiopia is suffering some of the heaviest and most intense rains on record. More than 600 people died in August in extensive flooding in almost every part of the country and affected some 350,000 people, many of whom are still being assisted by WFP

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