Monday, September 24, 2007

Downpours prevent Africa flood aid

Al Torrential rain across Africa has hampered efforts to get aid to hundreds of thousands of people desperate for food and shelter after the worst floods on the continent in three decades. About 1.5 million people in 18 countries have been lost their homes and livelihoods, while almost 300 people have been killed.

"The short dry period we experienced for three days was broken yesterday and it has been raining for the past 24 hours, making all roads inaccessible," Musa Ecweru, state minister for disaster preparedness in the northeast of Uganda, said on Sunday. "If the rains continue for the next four days, we do not know what will happen. The routes have been destroyed," he told the AFP news agency from Soroti, the northeastern town where much of the relief effort is being co-ordinated.

An estimated 500,000 people in Uganda have already been affected by the floods. Neighbouring regions in southern Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya have also been badly hit. With displaced people dying of water-borne diseases and electrocution in remote areas, casualty figures are still being compiled.

…The crisis prompted Uganda's government to declare a state of emergency on Wednesday, the first time Yoweri Museveni, the president, has done so during his 21 years in power.

…On Wednesday, the World Food Programme called for $65 million to feed 1.7 million people - many of them already displaced by the war in the north of Uganda. On Friday, other UN agencies in Uganda launched a $43 million floods appeal.

West Africa has also seen terrible flooding, with countries such as Ghana, Togo and Nigeria heavy affected. Forecasts predict more rain in many parts of the continent over the coming days. Louis Michel, the European commissioner for development and humanitarian aid, said on Friday that the current disaster highlighted the threat posed by climate change in the world's poorest nations.

"This year's floods and droughts across much of Africa, as well as in Europe and other parts of the world, are a wake-up call," he said in a statement. "Every new disaster highlights the danger that the world, and more particularly less developed countries and small insular states, faces from climate change."

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