After the storm: All hands-on deck to respond to basic needs cause by Tunisia’s flash floods

“We carried our kids and ran to the rooftop escaping the floods that invaded our houses. We stayed there for more than 18 hours until the water level receded” said Karima, mother of two. “When we came down, we saw that our belongings had been swept away by the water: furniture, food stock, our sheep and cows, cloth and books. We kept asking ourselves: where are we going to sleep? How can we keep our kids warm now that winter is approaching?” she said.

The flash floods that hit Tunisia’s Cap Bon peninsula on 22 Sep 2018 killing six people caused water levels in some areas to rise as much as 1.7 meters, as bridges and roads were damaged in record rains that dropped the equivalent of nearly six months of average precipitation. According to Tunisia’s National Institute of Meteorology, It was the heaviest rainfall since the institute began keeping records in 1995.

Houses no longer safe

Besides distributing mattresses to people affected, Tunisia Red Crescent (TRCS) volunteers provided psychosocial support to them as they witnessed the sudden invasion of water into their houses and alleys.

“TRCS and International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) did a situation assessment in 9 out of the 12 affected governorates,” said Dr Abdellatif Chabbou, President of Tunisia Red Crescent. “We found out that around 10.000 people urgently need: “Mattresses, blankets, food, shelter, safe drinking water, health, sanitation and hygiene.”

Some houses are no longer safe to stay in. Around 800 families are taking shelter in schools and youth clubs. Others, are staying with family member in neighboring governorates that have not been hit. Water floods surged through villages damaging infrastructure, houses, properties, and livelihoods of the community members.

“Water supply through pipelines is limited, and the water available in some areas is at risk contamination. Pipelines water supply was cut to avoid possible water contamination in case of damaged canalizations. “Electricity has been cut off in certain districts to avoid electrical damages and incidents.

Volunteers supporting community

IFRC launched a Disaster Response Emergency Funds to fulfil the needs for three months, of 10,000 people in 9 provinces including 2 temporary shelters.

120 TRCS volunteers will be mobilized to implement the emergency operation in the nine target provinces: as follows: Soliman, Menzel Bouzelfa, Bani Khalled, Nabeul, Dar Shaaben, Korba, Hammamet, Takelsa, Bou Argoub.

The funds will supply the families with mattresses, blankets, liquid chlorine to clean the water, food, hygiene kits and cleaning materials, etc. Health care services notably psychological support will continue to be provided by Tunisia RC volunteers along with emergency community based first aid through two mobile clinics.

Water treatment is part of the local culture as the government provide mass awareness campaigns in hygiene and sanitation promotion. TRCS will organise clean-up/environmental sanitation campaigns for a clean and safe environment for the flood-affected people at several stages through-out the operation.