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300,000 Affected by Floods in Uganda


The United Nations reports about 300,000 people in eastern and central Uganda are affected by the worst flooding in 35 years. Lisa Schlein reports from Geneva that aid agencies warn of widespread hunger and outbreak of disease if emergency assistance does not reach the flood victims in a timely manner.

The United Nations says continuing heavy rain is making it difficult to reach the flood victims with desperately needed aid. It says the most affected areas are practically cut off because roads and bridges have washed away.

A spokeswoman for the office of U.N. Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, Elizabeth Byrs, says many people have lost their homes, belongings, and in the worst affected areas, 90 percent of their harvest.

"The most vulnerable families are going to be hungry because of this," she said. "They have also lost all their food stocks. Not only the crops are destroyed, but the herd of cattle have been drowned and washed away. Pastures are flooded and the consequence could be a kind of disease outbreak for the cattle, not only for the people, but for the cattle itself."

Byrs says shelter, food, clean drinking water and sanitation are the most urgent needs. She says concern is growing that polluted water could lead to waterborne disease outbreaks.

The World Food Program is asking for $65 million to feed up to 1.7 million people in Uganda until March.

WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume says the situation in Uganda is complex. While the appeal is for the victims of severe floods, she says it also will be used to feed refugees and hundreds of thousands of people in northern Uganda displaced by two decades of civil war.

Berthiaume says the World Food Program has recently helped more than 200,000 displaced people go back to their homes.

"If there is a peace agreement, obviously there will be more people," she added. "But, you have got floods and you have the drought in another part of the country. And, you have a possible large influx of refugees from eastern Congo, where insecurity is prevailing and people might come and try to get refuge in Uganda. We have done distribution to some of those newly arrived refugees. Some have gone back."

Berthiaume says aid workers are distributing food to flood victims. But, she adds access is difficult and without new funds, the relief effort is in jeopardy.