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News: UN, Ethiopia appeal for urgent action to assist 1.5 million people devastated by floods

At least 33 people have been killed by the severe flooding in the Somali region according to OCHA (Photo: Somali Fast Info/Facebook)

Addis Abeba – Unprecedented floods in different parts of Ethiopia have affected an estimated 1.5 million, and displaced 600,000 people, intensifying the suffering of communities yet to recover from five consecutive seasons of severe drought, according to a joint statement released by the UN and the Ethiopian government.

The statement followed the conclusion of a three-days field visits to affected areas between 24-26 November 2023, by Shiferaw Tekelemariam, Commissioner of the Ethiopian government’s relief commission, and Dr. Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ethiopia, aiming to assess the situation and explore options to scale up relief efforts.

The flooding, which affected 85 districts of 23 zones in seven regional states, have caused extensive damage, affecting lives, displacing populations, and devastating crops, livestock, and vital infrastructure. “Houses, shops, schools, and agricultural lands are submerged. Additionally, health risks have surged, leading to increased cases of cholera, malaria, and dengue fever,” the statement noted.

Accounting for 80 per cent of those affected, the people in Somali region’s Shabelle, Afder, Liban, and Dawa zones experienced the most substantial impact. “In some areas, communities report this as the worst flooding witnessed in years.”

Multi-sector lifesaving assistance being provided by the Ethiopian government and humanitarian partners to affected communities have been found to be “sporadic and insufficient” due to limited resources and response capacity in some areas, according to the joint statement. “In the Somali region out of more than 1 million affected, and around 500,000 newly displaced, only 10 percent have been assisted.”

In addition to the ongoing life saving operations the government has deployed its national defense force helicopters and boats for rescue operations and transportation of relief aid to hard-to-reach areas, but significant gaps remain, the statement emphasized.

Atalele Abuhay, senior communications officer at the Ethiopian Disaster Risk Management Commission told the Ethiopian Press Agency that the commission has delivered in two rounds humanitarian aid worth 7.9 billion birr for 7.3 million people affected by natural and man-made disasters.

Nevertheless, limited funds and accessing affected areas for humanitarian supply delivery poses the most significant challenges, the joint statement conveyed, calling for urgent action “to swiftly bolster the response by mobilizing additional resources and logistical capacity, both locally and globally”.

The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said nearly 1.6 million people throughout the Horn of Africa have been displaced by the severe climate-induced floods. The Office said in a press release on Wednesday that years of drought left soils unable to absorb moisture, and severe flooding has killed dozens of people. Earlier, the Office indicated that as of 15 November 2023, floods and subsequent landslides have killed 43 people across Ethiopia. AS

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