Worst floods in ten years hit Tunisia

More than 27,000 people have had to be evacuated from their homes in northern and central Tunisia since torrential rains, exacerbated by an intense cold wave in early January, caused the worst floods in 10 years in the country. At least six children have died, hundreds of houses were damaged or destroyed, and many livestock have drowned. Out of nine affected governorates in the country, Jendouba, Béja, Manouba and Bizerte are those which suffered the most damage.
In order to bring essential assistance to 3,000 people (600 families) over the next two months, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is appealing for 308,000 Swiss francs (US$ 229,000). The funds will be used to bring food, blankets and warm clothing to those families left homeless by the flooding. They have also lost most of their belongings, including a whole year's worth of food reserves.

"Most affected families are small farmers or agricultural workers and their homes are modest," explains Dr. Tahar Cheniti, secretary general of the Tunisian Red Crescent. "Usually they stock reserves of couscous, oil and pasta for the family for the year, and now they have nothing left. The priority is to help them rebuild or clean out their houses and reconstitute their food stocks," he explains.

From the onset of the disaster, about 40 Tunisian Red Crescent volunteers were mobilized to provide first aid and distribute mattresses, blankets, clothing and food and small amounts of cash to the families evacuated by the army and civil defence. Most have been sheltered in recreation centres, while others have been taken in by friends or relatives.

"We were able to meet immediate needs thanks to our volunteers and our emergency stocks", says Dr. Cheniti. The Red Crescent stocks are almost entirely depleted as is its emergency relief fund, which was used to buy food and other emergency items. The International Federation earlier released 50,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to support the Tunisian Red Crescent relief operation.

"Winter will last at least another two months," Dr. Cheniti points out. "Therefore we are planning to continue helping flood victims until April. They will need not only shelter, food and clothing, but also hygiene items."

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