Yemen: Situation "critical" for flood-affected families

Marie-Françoise Borel in Geneva

Thousands of families remain in a critical situation after flash floods affected a third of Yemen in late October.

Torrential rains devastated the south eastern and south western parts of the country, killing some 180 people, destroying more than 2,000 houses as well as roads and other infrastructure, and forcing the displacement of between 20,000 to 25,000 people.

Authorities fear the death toll may continue to rise as many people are still reported missing and final assessments have not yet been completed. The number of displaced families may also increase.

Emergency relief

Hundreds of Yemen Red Crescent volunteers and staff continue to distribute emergency relief from their own pre-positioned stocks, including food, water, blankets and basic medsicines to the homeless.

The flood waters washed away much of the soil in certain areas and many fields are now unsuitable for cultivation. Thousands of livestock have died and damage to crops, palm groves and beehives is severe in a number of districts, such as Sah, Suna and Tarim in the Hadramaut valley. In some areas, 70 per cent of farmers were affected by flooding.

For people temporarily housed in schools and mosques, the situation remains difficult. Although most have no home to return to, they will have to find shelter elsewhere since schools are due to reopen soon.

Appeal launched

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched a preliminary emergency appeal of 1.7 million Swiss francs (1.5 million US dollars/1.2 million euro) to support the Yemen Red Crescent's relief operation for the most vulnerable families.

The funds will be used to provide nearly 5,000 people in the governorates of Hadramaut and Al-Mahara with food, blankets, bedding, water treatment products, hygiene articles, basic health care, shelter materials and psychosocial support over the coming 12 months.

"Assessments are ongoing, and the results will allow us to further define the type and extent of help needed for displaced families in the mid and long term," explains Tenna Mengistu, IFRC country representative in Yemen.

Rebuilding lives

"But it was important to launch an appeal quickly to mobilize more funds and bring substantial assistance to families whose situation remains precarious. As we receive more information, we will probably revise this appeal upwards to make sure people can begin rebuilding their lives in decent conditions."

The Yemen Red Crescent is working in close collaboration with the authorities and with many partners, including the IFRC, other Red Cross and Red Crescent societies which have rushed help to the area, and UN agencies including the WHO, UNHCR and UNICEF.