UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
Situation Report No. 2
November 20, 1997
In a statement released yesterday, the head of the Ethiopian Somali National Regional State, Mr. Mohammed Mealin, reported that a total of 297 people have lost their lives as a result of extensive flooding in the region over the past three to four weeks. This follows unseasonal heavy rain in the highlands of Ethiopia in October/early November and the widespread inundation of the lower reaches of the Shebelle, Ganale (Juba in Somalia), and Dawa rivers. In addition to the cost in human lives, more than 12,000 domestic animals were reported lost, some 30,000 hectares of cropland inundated and 4,252 homes destroyed. According to the statement, among the settled farming communities located along these rivers, approximately 65,000 people have been displaced or have lost livestock and property and remain in need of urgent relief assistance.
Immediately following the occurrence of the flooding the Government took steps to assess the extent of the damage while at the same time dispatching emergency relief supplies. With a number of villages along these rivers cut-off, an air-relief operation was mounted with a Hercules aircraft hired from Ethiopian Airlines used to pre-position supplies in the central Ogaden town of Gode while an airforce helicopter was deployed to shuttle supplies to affected communities around Kelafo, Mustahil and Ferfer and to rescue people trapped by the rising water levels. Operations are being coordinated in the field by an emergency task force in Gode comprising representatives of the local administration, military, Red Cross and the Government's Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC).
Using its own resources, supplemented by supplies provided by the Ethiopian Red Cross, the DPPC has transported 35 tons of relief grain, 20 tons of high energy biscuits, 80 rolls of plastic sheeting and some 37,000 litres of fuel to the main operations base at Gode; while some 40 tons of grain, 15 tons of biscuits and 35 rolls of plastic sheeting has been dispatched by truck to meet the immediate needs of people displaced by the flooding of the Ganale and Dawa rivers close to the Ethiopian/Somali/Kenyan border. However, with roads in this area still cut, it is reported that access to the border town of Dolo, where upwards of 8,000 refugees and displaced people are encamped, is only possible by air.
Working closely with partners in the Somali region, the ICRC reports that it plans to distribute 10,000 blankets, 5,000 jerrycans, 40,000 square metres of plastic sheeting to around 25,000 people in the next few days. Some medical supplies are also available but will remain in store until adequate supervision structures are established as part of the medical task force soon to be established by the local health bureau. Following the Government's request for external assistance (see below), the American Embassy is expected to authorise the immediate release of $25,000 from the Ambassador's discretionary fund to help defray the logistical support costs of current relief operations.
Flooding has also been reported along other major rivers in Ethiopia. The Awash river in the east overflowed its lower reaches a few weeks ago while the Baro and Akobo rivers in the west have also been running very high, threatening a number of low-lying communities in the Gambella region. In both locations, the government has taken measures to pre-positioned relief food and shelter materials.
In a statement released today, the DPPC has stated that while the Government has so far managed to meet the most immediate relief needs in the areas affected by the recent floods, a shortage of medium/heavy lift helicopters, shelter materials, medical supplies and supplementary foods has become a matter of concern. With fears that a continuation of the unusually heavy rains over the coming weeks could lead to further flooding in the periphery of the country, external assistance is now required in order that the Government can be in a position to respond effectively. The DPPC has therefore called upon international and local donors to provide support to the on-going flood disaster mitigation and recovery efforts of the Government.
UNDP-Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia
20 November 1997