Yemen: Aid beginning to reach flood victims

News and Press Release
Originally published
SANAA, 28 October 2008 (IRIN) - Thousands of people are facing harsh conditions in Hadramaut and al-Mahra governorates, southeastern Yemen, after flooding seriously affected livelihoods and displaced thousands, aid workers and officials have said.

Mohammed al-Qubati, president of the Charitable Society for Social Welfare, a local NGO, told IRIN: "Some 75 percent of Hadramaut's population is affected. Some families have become destitute overnight. Families with average incomes have become very poor after their farms and beehives were destroyed."

Al-Qubati said the floods had also affected health: "Drinking water has been mixed with sewage and this will lead to health hazards. The humanitarian situation is so difficult. Highways are still cut off."

The Hadramaut local authorities said on 27 October the floods had destroyed 420 farms, 58 water wells and about 7,000 beehives. Some 3,000 families (about 21,000 people) had been displaced.

On the same day the Interior Ministry said the death toll had risen to 85 in Hadramaut and five in al-Mahra. Thirty-one people are still missing and 1,806 houses are either totally or partially destroyed.

Relief teams said they had distributed over 18 tonnes of food to flood-affected citizens.

Limited access

Salem Numair, secretary-general of al-Mahra's local council, said bad weather had prevented aid helicopters from reaching hundreds of families in the Hoot and al-Masila areas. "Around 1,500 families in the two areas have been cut off from relief aid for the past four days. Helicopters could not reach them due to visibility difficulties," he told IRIN on 28 October.

Numair said wells had been contaminated after being inundated by floodwater. "Water networks were also damaged by the floods," he said, adding that more heavy rain is expected.

International aid

The German embassy in Sanaa said on 27 October it had offered 100,000 euros to help mitigate the effects of the flooding in Hadramaut and al-Mahra. Some of the money would be used for clean-up operations in cooperation with municipal authorities, and some would be used to distribute water filters and clean drinking water; those most-affected would receive a small financial handout.

Fifty thousand euros would be earmarked for rehabilitating health facilities in the affected areas.

"Germany will mobilise additional long-term assistance for flood mitigation and disaster relief in order to avoid future disasters and protect the population and their cultural heritage," the embassy said in a statement.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a 27 October report that some UN agencies had begun assisting civilians in flood-hit areas.

It said the World Health Organization (WHO) was currently providing medical kits - enough for 10,000 people for a period of three months. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) had provided shelter and non-food items for 200 families, with a further 300 earmarked for aid, it said.

The OCHA report said the World Food Programme (WFP) had food stocks available that could be re-directed if necessary.

"The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation based in Dubai, UAE, is dispatching by air and road relief supplies, electricity generators and water pumps to the affected population," the report said.