NAIROBI, 7 December (IRIN) - The main challenge in responding to the flood emergency in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia continues to be providing adequate supplies of safe water and sanitation facilities to prevent outbreaks of diarrhoeal and other water-related illnesses such as malaria, the United Nations children's agency (UNICEF) said.
The agency said on Wednesday it would require US$30.4 million to respond to the flood crisis in the three countries until February 2007. The funds would ensure that those affected were provided with basic services, including health and nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.
Another priority was the protection of women and children affected by the flooding and related displacement, including separated and unaccompanied children, and support for pupils whose schooling had been disrupted.
"In many parts of the region, many water supplies are submerged in flood waters while latrines have either collapsed or flooded," UNICEF said in its appeal statement. "While the emergency response has been launched, it is being hampered by insufficient information, damaged or destroyed infrastructure, lack of fuel and continuing heavy rains in the region."
The flood situation in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia continued to be unstable because the rainy season was expected to continue until the end of December. The number of flood-hit people could rise to three million by the end of 2006, according to UNICEF. The floods have led to a loss of scores of lives, massive displacement and considerable damage to livelihoods. Humanitarian agencies estimate that 1.8 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia have so far been affected by flooding.
In Ethiopia, the Wabi-Shebelle River burst its banks and flooded the Lower Shebelle areas of Gode and Afder zones in Somali region in October. The overflow of the Weyib and Fafen rivers also inundated parts of Liben and Korahe zones, respectively. The flooding claimed 80 lives, affected 361,619 people, 72,000 of them children. About 122,500 remain displaced.
There have been 40,000 cases of acute watery diarrhoea across Ethiopia, 15,000 of them children, according to UNICEF. The epidemic has been confirmed in the flood-affected areas of Moyale and Filtu districts and unconfirmed outbreaks have been reported in other parts of the region.
In Kenya, the flooding followed three years of drought, which had ravaged 80 percent of the country's areas classified as arid or semi-arid. At end-November, the most affected areas were the Northeastern and Coast provinces, particularly the Tana River basin, where people have been displaced by high river water, and Dadaab refugee camp, located in an area of Northeastern Province that becomes a swamp in heavy rains.
An estimated 700,000 people in Kenya, including 100,000 Somali refugees, are badly affected by flooding. The usual pattern of flooding in Kenya is that the western, more densely populated parts of the country in the Lake Victoria basin are hit after the coast and northeast, but the devastation is even worse in a region with high levels of poverty. Between one and three million people could need assistance in Western and Nyanza Provinces in Kenya, with more than 20,000 displaced by the end of November.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on Wednesday launched a revised emergency appeal for $21.9 million to help the Kenya Red Cross Society respond to the flood crisis.
Somalia, a country without a functioning government and riven by civil strife since 1991, is facing its worst flood crisis in a decade, with more than 350,000 people directly affected, including 70,000 children. Projections by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization's Food Security Analysis Unit (FSAU) show the total number of affected people is expected to increase to more than 400,000 over the coming weeks.
Concern is growing that military conflict between rival political groups could result in widespread population displacement and thereby worsen the existing humanitarian crisis and prevent access to the most needy children and communities.
Rainfall has been decreasing in the Juba and Shebelle river catchments inside Ethiopia. River levels are reported stable or falling in many areas, but longer-term forecasts suggest that El Niño conditions are expected to strengthen before the year-end, raising chances of increased rainfall during this period, particularly over southern Somalia, Middle and Lower Juba regions.
Relief efforts inside Somalia are under way, but limited road access continues to hinder the delivery of emergency relief supplies.