Uganda + 3 more

CARE takes action as millions affected by floods in Africa

Geneva, September 21, 2007- Torrential rains battering a broad band of land stretching from East to West Africa have caused major flooding, affecting millions of people across the continent and triggering CARE's emergency response. CARE staff in Uganda, Ghana, Ethiopia and Mali are responding and/or assessing community needs in the affected areas, coordinating its activities with government agencies and other non-governmental associations. The immediate responses are focusing on providing food assistance, access to safe water , shelter for displaced people and supplying basic items such as blankets, plastic sheeting and pots and pans.CARE is committing $50,000 from its own Emergency Response Fund to provide immediate emergency relief for people displaced by floods in northern Uganda and northern Ghana. Abnormally heavy rains have inundated large parts of northern and north eastern Uganda. Up to six million people are affected, with at least 300,000 severely affected, and the number may continue to rise, as the rains are expected to continue until November. The Uganda Government has declared Northern and Eastern parts of the country disaster areas. Many people are displaced and sheltering in schools, camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other places with high ground."The people most affected by the flooding in the northeastern part of Uganda are the same people who have endured twenty years of civil war and have lived in internally displaced camps for more than a decade," says Kevin Fitzcharles, Country Director for CARE Uganda. "The recent peace agreement between the Government and the Lords Resistance Army had finally given the green light for people to return to their native villages. The sanitary conditions are extremely poor and the mortality rate is high. These poor people are back to where they started."

Based on an initial assessment, CARE staff in Uganda will provide food, medicine, hygiene items and water purification tablets to approximately 50,000 people in the Pader and Lira districts of Northern Uganda. Malaria, diarrheal diseases, and acute respiratory infections are typically associated with contaminated water sources and inadequate sanitation. Authorities report that these infections have already risen by as much as 30%. Water purification is especially important in order to stave off possible epidemics if flooding continues. The floods have destroyed major food and cash crops including cassava, beans, sorghum, cowpeas, poatoes, and cotton. In the medium term, people will need assistance to obtain secure access to food. In the longer term people will need seeds and tools to start over. Roads and bridges will also need repair in order to facilitate recovery.

In Ghana, the floods are the most serious to hit the country in nearly three decades and have devastated farms and affected tens of thousands of people. To make matters worse, the floods have come after a drought that lasted until mid-July and stretched the ability of many people to cope economically in the face of disaster.

"The people who have been most acutely affected by the floods and the loss of land are from Ghana's poorest farm families," says Marcy Vigoda, CARE's Country Director in Ghana. "Although Ghana has made impressive progress, poverty levels in northern Ghana remain extremely high. It's critical to help these people to recover their livelihoods."

Most of CARE's funds will be used to address immediate needs in the districts of Ghana's Upper East and Northern Regions. CARE is also seeking funds to help in agricultural recovery, and is building on its ongoing work in 140 northern communities.

In Ethiopia CARE is striving to provide relief to areas inundated by the collapse of a dam. About 4,500 people are isolated and surrounded by water. The organization is also planning to support the people of the Amhara Region, who have been affected by the flooding of Lake Tana.

In Mali three communities were affected by floods July of this year. This was a result of heavy rain that flooded the Yame River. About 404 houses were partially or totally destroyed, more than 1 500 people affected, and 5 bridges collapsed. CARE has begun an emergency response and is distributing 12 tons of cereals. CARE is also providing basic household equipment, such as tents and lamps. CARE is also conducting a survey to determine how the flooding will impact harvest and food security in the country.

Many more people may be at risk across the continent if the rains continue past the end of the rainy season and hit areas that have so far escaped the floods.

Media Contacts:

Bea Spadacini in Kenya at +254 (0) 725 22 10 36 / spadacini@ci.or.ke

Kenneth Walker in South Africa at + 27 11 234 1221 / Walker@caresa.co.za