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SOMALIA: Floods Increase Humanitarian Needs
November 25, 2006
Heavy rains in the last few weeks have caused flooding of the Juba and Shebelle rivers in southern Somalia, bringing devastation to much of the riverside areas, and highly increasing the needs in one of the most densely populated regions in the country. Thousands of families have seen their homes destroyed and are now displaced. Bruno Jochum, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Director of Operations, describes the situation.
With the floods, what is the situation in the areas where MSF is working today?
In Beletweyne, located in Hiran region, flooding of the Shabelle river on November 9 lead to approximately 18,000 people to move from the east to the west side of the city. Families from surrounding areas keep arriving in Beletweyne, having lost all their belongings and livelihood. An MSF team, composed of four international staff, arrived in Beletweyne on November 18. The main priority today is water and sanitation. The team has begun to build 300 latrines for the newly displaced, to try to reduce to a minimum the risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera. MSF is providing medicines and medical material to existing health structures and has distributed non-food items such as jerrycans, blankets, and soap for 200 families, to complete what had already been distributed by local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). An international organization (ICRC) is now in charge of bringing clean water to the inhabitants.
What is your main concern for this population?
Though the health situation of the population is satisfactory at this point, there are significant risks for diarrhea, linked to hygiene and access to clean water, and malaria as mosquitoes are proliferating in the flooded areas.
Unlike flood-affected populations in Ethiopia and Kenya, there is little media coverage of the situation of affected populations in Somalia, and few humanitarian organizations. While humanitarian aid is already scarce in Somalia, the continued flight ban imposed by Kenya on the country further impedes the arrival of assistance. Increased difficulties in accessing populations, from the flight ban to logistical aspects, must not prevent other humanitarian agencies from providing assistance now.