Somalia

 
Published: Wednesday 31 December 1997

  Flood disaster: very few cou The worst floods since 1961 have ravaged the Juba river valley in Somalia killing more than 2,000 people. Roads, airstrips and bridges were underwater in the towns of Bardera in the north to Jumaame in the south. "It is completely floo-ded. People are trapped. Some are sitting on dikes waiting for help. They are just trying to survive. They don't have any more food," said Patrick Berner, a worker for the Inter-national Com-mittee of the Red Cross.

Relief workers estimate that some 200,000 refugees have been displaced by the floods. It is said that these rains are a result of the El Nio weather phenomenon. The Juba, which flows from the Ethiopian highlands to the Arabian Sea south of the Horn of Africa, grows onions and tobacco. At least half these crops are now destroyed.

Unlike past floods, the floods this year are hitting a people without a central government or a national army, a fractured country whose infrastructure has been ruined by six years of clan warfare. A famine caused by this war killed about 300,000 people in 1992.

Worse, relief to Somalia is not coming easily. United Nations officials say that few countries are willing to help Somalia in the aftermath of the disastrous 1993 mission, led by the us to help the famine victims. The relief efforts ended in a debacle, with 18 American soldiers being killed due to fighting among faction leaders and widespread looting of food supplies. The un agencies and other relief groups have been asking for donations from developed countries to help the flooded region. So far, they have raised only us $5.4 million. The amount needed in around us $9.6 million.

In the last week of November, the un rented four helicopters from a South African company. But at least six more are needed. Ten small boats donated by Norway are also being used to help in the relief operation.

Although the Jabu river often floods during the rainy season in October and November, the rains this year came early and have been torrential and unrelenting. It rained non-stop for over six weeks. In the Juba river valley alone, most towns have received 10 times the normal rainfall over the last six weeks.

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