BANGUI, 28 October (IRIN) - Thousands of Bangui residents, whose homes were swept away last week by flash floods, have begun receiving emergency-relief aid from the local and international red crosses, an official said.
"We are currently distributing buckets, blankets and canvas sheets," Antoine Mbao-Bogo, the chairman of the local CAR Red Cross branch, told IRIN on Wednesday.
He said more aid could come to the victims, but the Customs Department was demanding that the society pay duties on used clothes before releasing the consignment. So far, the local Red Cross had only been able to help 1,410 people; whose condition he termed as "desperate".
Despite the needs, he said aid from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was insufficient to care for even 15 percent of the victims. He also said the central government was not intervening.
"Apart from the heads of the districts that are mobilising their populations, the government is just watching," he said.
Mbao-Bogo said he had appealed to the regional office of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde, for help. He also said the CAR's Ministry of Social Affairs and National Solidarity was being called upon in the aid effort.
The ICRC in CAR says it has drawn supplies from its relief-aid stock to donate to the flood victims. These items were not supposed to be used for victims of natural disasters.
"Since the situation was an emergency, we had to react regardless of the limitations of our mandate," Katharina Ritz, the head of the ICRC bureau in CAR, said on Thursday. "ICRC's mandate limits its intervention to victims of armed conflicts."
ICRC has limited its donation, through the local Red Cross, for distribution to the victims in seven districts of Bangui, but the situation has not yet improved.
"The situation is alarming," Jean Modessi, the CAR Red Cross director for disaster management and aid coordination, told IRIN. "We had to decide between helping those whose homes were completely damaged and those whose houses were partly damaged."
[This Item is Delivered to the "Africa-English" Service of the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information, free subscriptions, or to change your keywords, contact e-mail: Irin@ocha.unon.org or Web: http://www.irinnews.org . If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Reposting by commercial sites requires written IRIN permission.]
Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2004