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ETHIOPIA: Finding shelter away from flooding

ADDIS ABABA, 6 September 2006 (IRIN) - A group of 20 people waded through waist-high water to reach dry ground, away from their flooded village on the shores of Lake Tana in Ethiopia's Amhara region.

"The waters were so high," said one. "All the food [in the houses] is destroyed. Over 1,000 cows have died. We came with our family ... and everyone from the village is coming."

The lake waters have receded - but only to the edge of the road where aid vehicles stop. Bambiko village, the home of the 20 evacuees, was still under water. Before the flooding, the village was mostly grazing land.

So far, more than 100,000 people in Ethiopia have been severely affected by the floods. Tens of thousands have been moved and are living in overcrowded, makeshift emergency shelters.

Others arrive on their own. "The challenge here is whether there will be enough resources to manage the new people," said Paulette Jones, a spokesperson for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Ethiopia.

Shelters stretched

The large tents that form the Dara, Fogara and Libo Kemkem emergency camps in Amhara hold about 15,000 evacuees. Each huge tent is home to 300-500 people. But with no beds, the evacuees sleep on thin plastic sheeting or blankets - the only barrier between them and the wet, muddy ground.

Because of extremely crowded conditions, sanitation is perilous, ventilation poor and the humidity staggering. One camp assistant at a medical clinic in Fogara said they were treating some residents for bloody diarrhea. Should disease spread, aid workers say, women and children will be most vulnerable.

WFP was distributing emergency food rations, with more being given to pregnant women, the elderly and children under five.

Long-term impact

According to aid workers, the problems caused by the worst flooding in Ethiopia in decades are complex, with severe long-term economic consequences. Thousands of heads of cattle, whole silos of grain, and significant tracts of grazing and farmland have been washed away.

Hardest-hit by recent flooding was Dire Dawa city in the east of Ethiopia where the Dechatu River burst its banks on 6 August; the areas around Lake Tana in the north where up to 20,000 people have been evacuated from their homes; and the region around the Omo River in the south.

"If the rains stop and the waters recede, the people can go home tomorrow," Tsegay Ahmed, an administrator at Libo Kemkem said.

That is, however, unlikely to happen. According to the Ethiopian meteorological department, normal to above-normal rainfall is likely to continue pounding the flooded areas in the coming days.

The official death toll from Ethiopia’s floods stands at more than 600 countrywide, but there are fears this number could rise as many people affected, have yet to be accounted for.

dl/eo/mw/cb

Theme (s): Natural Disasters,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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