Tanzania: Red Cross responds to new year floods

News and Press Release
Originally published
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6 January 2010

By Anne Wanjiru, IFRC, in Nairobi

The Red Cross Red Crescent is bringing shelter and relief goods to thousands of people following severe flooding in Tanzania.

Around ten people have died and more than a thousand have been displaced by the new year floods, which were caused by several days of incessant rain over the holiday period. As many as 25,000 people have been affected, mainly in Morogoro and Dodoma.

In Kilosa, one of the worst-hit areas, 71-year-old Vumilia Ali and her two grandchildren watched as their house and possessions were swept away by the raging waters.

"My grandchildren and I were having dinner on the evening just after Christmas day," she said. "All of a sudden the house was surrounded by waist-high waters."

Vumilia, 13-year-old Anna and 16-year-old Abdalla ran out of their home clutching a few belongings, and sought safety in an open field on higher ground.

Safer ground

Some 23 camps each housing up to 100 families have been established across the region to secure safe ground for the displaced families. Many schools have been converted to serve as evacuation centres for the homeless but, with the new term approaching, it is not yet clear where these people will go next.

The damage to infrastructure has been immense. Roads and connecting bridges have been swept away, and parts of the country's railway line left impassable hampering the country's transportation system. Around 2,000 homes in Kilosa were engulfed by the rising waters and more than half of these were completely destroyed.

The waters have submerged acres of crops and pasture lands and flooded many wells that serve as the main water source for communities. As a result, some health centres are already reporting cases of cholera and acute watery diarrhoea.

Search and rescue

From the onset of the heavy rains, the Tanzanian Red Cross Society deployed some 50 volunteers who have been assisting with search and rescue services and relocation of people who were displaced by the floods.

Relief items such as blankets, water buckets, water guard tablets and cooking sets have been distributed to more than 200 families, including Vumilia's.

"This new year, instead of the usual celebration, we were afraid because our future is so uncertain. However we are comforted by the presence of the Red Cross, who have given us a famliy tent for shelter, blankets, cooking sets, water buckets and purification tablets to ensure we have clean safe water," she said.

Biggest problem

Red Cross disaster management coordinator Joseph Kimaryo said: "The biggest problem we need to address is shelter.

"We found hundreds of families huddled together in an open field, stranded and cold. We face an enormous task of meeting their needs, being the first agency on the ground and with the local authorities largely dependent on our response efforts.

"The situation is getting worse and, with more regions such as Shinyanga added to those devasted by the storms, a lot remains to be done," he added.

Emergency shelter

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has disbursed 326,078 Swiss francs (322,849 US dollars/215,945 euro) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to help the Tanzania Red Cross support 5,000 families for the coming three months. This will include the provision of emergency shelter, relief items, and health and water and sanitation interventions.

"The El-nino rains are not only wrecking havoc in Tanzania but its impact is also being felt in neighbouring Kenya," said Brennan Banks, IFRC's disaster operations manager.

"The heavy showers are expected to continue through the whole of next month according to metereological reports. We have dispatched a team of experts to assess the situation as well as arranging the deployment of additional relief supplies from the IFRC warehouse in Nairobi."