Friday, September 21, 2007

African floods prompt aid appeal

Aid agencies have started appealing for funds to assist people hit by the floods in several African countries.

United Nations agencies are seeking extra funds for Uganda, where the government has declared an emergency.

The British Red Cross has launched an emergency appeal for flood-affected areas across Africa.

The UN says 1.5 million people are affected by the floods which have hit a swathe of countries from the east to the west of the continent.

The British Red Cross will work alongside the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to "provide urgently needed relief, including shelter and water purification tablets, to those affected by the crisis," a statement from the organisation said.


Lorry crossing River Aswa, northern Uganda [Pic: Hudson Apunyo]

Our children cannot go to school as their classrooms have been turned into homes and camps for the displaced 

John Tanko Bawa, Ghana

The World Food Programme (WFP) has launched a $60m appeal for food aid to Uganda alone.

The floods are said to be the worst in many countries for decades, with 250 killed and more than 600,000 displaced.

One area particularly badly affected is northern Ghana, where the White Volta River burst its banks following days of torrential rain and large areas of farmland were flooded.

The Ghanaian Navy is helping to get emergency supplies to villages cut off by the floods, but access is slowly improving as flood waters recede, BBC West Africa correspondent Will Ross reports.

There will however be a long-term need for food aid in many parts of northern Ghana, as the annual maize crop has been destroyed just before farmers were about to harvest, our correspondent says.

Floodgates dispute

The Ghanaian government and humanitarian agencies have just ended a visit to the worst-hit areas.

In some parts of Uganda, access to villages is very difficult Uganda floods

But some villages remain cut off, only accessible by canoe - and all this just weeks after the same subsistence farmers were suffering from drought.

Officials in neighbouring Burkina Faso have denied accusations that they aggravated the flooding in Ghana by opening floodgates on a dam that lies upstream from the countries' common border.

Burkina Faso itself is also badly affected. Displaced people are sheltering in schools while waiting for the government to build makeshift shelters, the BBC's Pierre Kazoni reports.

In Uganda, the first priority is getting food to people whose crops have been destroyed by the flooding, the BBC's Sarah Grainger in Kampala says.

Already, the UN has diverted one helicopter from neighbouring Sudan's Darfur region and the WFP is requesting that two more be made available for the relief effort.

People who have lost their homes to the floods also need tarpaulins and tents and aid agencies are stressing that medical supplies will be important as the threat of water-borne diseases like cholera increases, she says.

BBC NEWS | Africa | African floods prompt aid appeal