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Worst African floods in decades

Floods affecting up to 17 African countries are reported to be the worst for decades, with 250 lives lost already and more than 600,000 people displaced from their homes. The United Nations estimates that 1.5 million people have been affected in some way by the floods in countries spanning from eastern to western Africa.

Concern is responding to this crisis in countries where it already has established operations.

Uganda one of the worst hit

Since July, unusually heavy rains in the northern and eastern parts of Uganda have resulted in increased volumes of water in rivers, valley dams, swamps and low lying areas. This is causing extensive flooding and water logging. More than 20 fatalities have been attributed to the floods in Uganda.

The rains are expected to continue until late November and the situation will continue to deteriorate if serious action is not undertaken.

Damage to houses and crops

Up to nine districts have been affected in the Teso and Elgon sub-region, with three regions affected in northern Uganda. An estimated 70% of houses in the sub-counties where Concern is operational (Obalang and Kapelabyong) have been damaged. 174 schools have also been damaged by the floods.

Nearly 30,000 households have either partially or fully lost their first season harvest. Many households have harvested prematurely rather than allow the crops to continue rotting in the fields. The planting of second season crops has been delayed by the flooding. Food shortages, increased malnutrition rates and further displacement are anticipated as a result.

Contaminated water

Unprotected water sources in the affected areas have been contaminated and there is evidence that some bore holes and shallow wells may also be contaminated. Water quality testing on 40 sampled water sources undertaken by the Amuria water department found that 75% of these are already contaminated. Residents are now afraid to use the remaining latrines, increasing the potential of disease outbreaks, such as cholera. A 50% surge in malaria in flooded districts has been reported. Cases of diarrhoea and respiratory infections have been reported in these areas.

Concern is responding to this crisis by distributing relief packages to 7,000 households in Kapelabyong and Obalang. The relief packages consist of water purification materials, blankets (two per household), mosquito nets (one per household), plastic sheeting and soap. This is deemed to be enough for one month. Over the next three months, Concern will also work with the local government to rehabilitate the area’s damaged infrastructure.

Liberia

In Liberia, heavy rains at the end of August caused the St Paul River and its tributaries in Montserrado County to overflow, flooding nearby communities and towns. Over 20,000 people have been temporarily displaced and more than 900 homes flooded.

Concern began its relief response in collaboration with the Ministry of Health on 24 September and will continue until 30 November. 

The Ministry of Health along with the Concern hygiene promotion team also conducted a one day assessment of communal wells. A total of 145 wells were identified for periodic chlorination – to purify the water, until the end of November, by which time the rainfall would have subsided. A round of chlorination will be conducted twice a month, lasting three days at a time.

5,593 families will be taught how to carry out self-chorination of water. Cholera kits will be distributed to these same households. They consist of jerry cans, liquid bleach (5% chlorine), plastic bags and chlorination demonstration posters. Concern will also distribute an estimated 4,474 mosquito nets, from the Ministry of Health, to children under five and pregnant women.

Somalia

Following reports of severe flooding in Ethiopia, Concern has been monitoring the situation there and in Somalia, particularly the areas surrounding the Shabelle River. Some low-level flooding in the Middle Shabelle Region – 90km north of Mogadishu, has resulted in the displacement of people from their homes and the destruction of farmlands. The floods have also damaged a key road that links Mogadishu to central regions.

Despite rising river water levels, the situation in the lower Shabelle region, where Concern operates, is relatively stable. However, Concern has been pre-positioning sand bags and assisting vulnerable villages to strengthen weak river embankments. Concern is also working with local groups to mobilise communities along the river to take appropriate measures to reduce the risks of further flooding.