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International Federation launches emergency appeal for floods preparedness in West and Central Africa

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The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is very concerned about data which suggests severe flooding may occur in West and Central Africa for the second year running. In order to mitigate the impact of abnormally high rain levels which are anticipated in the region by the weather prediction organizations working in partnership with the International Federation, immediate steps have been taken to avoid the extent and type of human misery and devastation which struck the region last year.

For this reason, the International Federation has launched a preliminary emergency appeal for 750,000 Swiss francs (EUR 460,000 / US$ 730,000) to support floods preparedness measures for National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in at-risk countries of West and Central Africa.

This initiative comes as a result of meteorological predictions that call for a particularly rainy 2008 season, with a high risk of flooding in July, August and September in many countries in the region.

'We must react immediately. This will allow us to significantly reduce the impact this flooding could have at the community level,' explains Youcef AitChellouche, disaster management coordinator in the Federation's zone office for West and Central Africa, in Dakar.

For many years, West and Central African countries have been devastated by severe flooding which killed thousands of people and caused considerable material damage. It is the most vulnerable and poorest populations who pay the heaviest price in these situations.

In 2007, most West and Central African countries were hit by floods which affected more than 800,000 people, destroyed or damaged homes and infrastructure, devastated crops and left thousands of people homeless.

Funds received from the appeal will be used to develop Red Cross and Red Crescent National Society contingency plans, to buy relief items, food and emergency goods and stock them in Dakar (Senegal), Accra (Ghana) and Yaounde (Cameroun). This will allow the rapid transportation of goods into affected zones, to assist some 48,000 people.

'Our strategy of pre-positioning goods, food and emergency stocks in different sites will help us bring rapid assistance to flood victims, meet their emergency needs, and, hopefully, save more lives,' notes Youcef AitChellouche.