Nearly a half million people in Somalia are currently in need of assistance due to heavy rains and flooding. But UN officials fear that number could rise sharply without a quick influx of aid.
Philippe Lazzarini is the head of the Somalia branch of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs or OCHA. From Nairobi, he gives VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua an update on the situation in Somalia.
“There are some regions, mainly in the Hiran, Middle Shabelle, Lower Shabelle where we can say the population has stabilized for the Time being. And our main concerns right now are disease outbreaks for these people. So the first phase of the intervention has been achieved. But now we are very, very concerned about possible disease outbreak like cholera and malaria. Now, when it comes to the Juba (region)… in which until recently we haven’t really been able to access the population,” he says. He describes efforts to help those people as “a race against the clock.”
What’s more, Lazzarini says, “We have hundreds of thousands of people who did not yet receive assistance. And that’s the reason why during the last few days we have deployed helicopter means to reach this population.”
Meanwhile, OCHA is also helping to coordination flood relief efforts in Ethiopia. Paul Hebert is the head of the UN OCHA office. From Addis Ababa, he spoke to Joe De Capua about conditions there.
“The flood waters have receded in all of the areas that were hard hit about a month ago. There were about 300,000 people that were affected and about 120,000 that were displaced. Many of those people have begun to go back to their homes, but many are still isolated because of the bad roads and the inability to reach them. There are also some people we are unable to reach because of the security situation,” he says.
In the past week, fighting has bee reported between forces of the Islamic Courts Union and the Ethiopian army.
Parts of Kenya have also been hit hard by the floods. Muddy roads are hindering efforts to get relief supplies to refugee camps in Dadaab.