At least 27,500 persons have been made homeless by Tunisia's worst floods in ten years, according to the latest estimates of the Tunisian Red Crescent (TRC) and the International Federation.
"In the northern governorate of Jendouba alone, some 3,600 families have either lost their homes or have had to leave them," said Federation's delegate Michel Paris, who visited the devastated areas. Nine of the country's 24 governorates have been affected by the floods.
"In many cases, people have lost not only their personal belongings but also their annual food stocks," said Anja Toivola, the Federation's representative in Tunisia. Dozens of head of cattle have drowned, fields of vegetables are underwater, and a number of small shops and workshops have been severely damaged.
Local branches of the Red Crescent immediately mobilized some 40 volunteers to provide first aid and distribute food, mattresses, warm clothing, blankets and small amounts of cash to the families.
The Federation Disaster Relief Emergency Fund released 50,000 Swiss francs ($US 37,000) to support the TRC relief efforts. An appeal will be launched within days for the distribution of more blankets, such foodstuff as rice, couscous, tomatoes, oil and sugar, as well as hygiene items to 600 families (3,000 people) living in the most affected provinces of Jendouba, Mannouba, Bizerte and Beja.
Since early January the country has been affected by heavy rainfall. "Despite three years of severe drought, the country's reservoirs were suddenly close to saturation," Paris explained. "Some water had to be urgently released through the dams, which added to the flooding."
Winter has been exceptionally cold in Tunisia this year and this could last another two months. "Therefore we are planning to continue helping flood victims until early April," the TRC secretary general, Dr. Tahar Cheniti, pointed out.