MOGADISHU, Somalia, 5 January 2005 – UNICEF has mounted a rapid relief effort to aid the approximately 15,000 people who have been affected by flooding along the country’s coastline following last Sunday’s massive earthquake.
Somalia is the worst affected country along the east coast of Africa, with some 120 people reported dead and hundreds still missing. In the worst hit areas, in particular the village of Harfun near the northern tip of the country, some 80 per cent of the homes and all of the water sources and sanitation facilities have been destroyed. UN agencies and NGOs are working to provide assistance focusing initially on shelter, water, medical supplies and food.
Among the hardest hit areas was the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in the north-eastern corner of the country. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA-Somalia), a season of drought, affecting the Sool Plateau and parts of South Central Somalia, was the key humanitarian emergency in 2004.
The cumulative effects of four years of poor rainfall in the Sool plateau and surrounding areas in Somaliland and Puntland caused massive livestock losses, rendered many pastoralists destitute and resulted in increased vulnerability and further displacement.
“From what we know right now, Puntland has been hardest hit,” said UNICEF Somalia Representative Jesper Morch. “This comes at a time when Puntland has been suffering from severe and long-running drought and significant assistance will be needed to help these families survive and recover.”
Ascertaining the extent of the damage is difficult due to Somalia’s extensive coastline and the high number of remote villages. However, the immediate concerns have been identified as the prevention of waterborne diseases and provision of food and basic shelter. Reports indicate that people are drinking contaminated water and some are struggling to find food.
UNICEF teams on the ground are already preparing a massive chlorination effort and will be collaborating with the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the World Food Programme (WFP), among others, to ensure a comprehensive and coordinated response.
UNICEF is also providing family relief kits, oral rehydration salts, water bladders, and is exploring the possibility of bringing in water tanks to the most vulnerable groups. Mobile health teams are also in the area and supplied with vaccines, Vitamin A and other health supplies.
“We need to set up the sanitation facilities as soon as possible for the displaced people. Water and nutrition are the top priorities, and then we will also see if we can bring education back to the children to help them get back to normalcy,” said UNICEF Senior Programme Officer Siddharth Chatterjee.
Providing education will also be a priority for UNICEF. “In tumultuous situations like this, and once people’s basic needs are met, getting children back into school as quickly as possible is the best way to restore normality and order to their lives,” said Morch.
“Once emergency needs are met, we will be supporting both the teachers and students in restoring their school routines, while simultaneously supporting parents and communities in reconstructing their homes and livelihoods by providing them with basic services such as health care, sanitation and safe water sources.”
The relief effort will continue until the affected communities are assisted and UNICEF and partners will continue to gather information and respond as needed as the extent of the damage becomes clear.
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