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Horn of Africa (Flooding)

Volume 453: debated on Tuesday 28 November 2006

Having suffered severe drought, parts of the Horn of Africa are now experiencing exceptionally high rainfall resulting in severe flooding in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. The UK has responded swiftly, committing £6 million to the humanitarian relief effort over the past few weeks. This brings our total humanitarian contribution in these countries since April 2005 to £50.8 million.

The worst affected areas are south eastern Ethiopia, southern Somalia and northern and eastern Kenya. Although there has been some respite in the past few days, the forecast is for the rains to continue at above normal levels for the next two or three months. The UN currently estimates that the floods are affecting nearly 1.5 million people—360,000 in Ethiopia (80 deaths), 902,000 in Somalia (52 deaths), and 207,000 in Kenya (45 deaths).

Since August DFID has committed £6 million to UN, Red Cross and Non Governmental Organisations (NGO's) operations in Ethiopia (£2 million), Somalia (£2 million), and Kenya (£2 million). This money is funding relief flights, distributions of relief kits (containing items such as plastic sheeting for shelter, jerry cans, blankets, soap), provision of water and sanitation supplies, and nutrition and health supplies and services. The flooding in Ethiopia has been affecting that country since July and the UK contributions were made at the end of August (£l million) and in October (£l million—to address the diarrhoea epidemic which was a consequence of the flooding).

The UN has released funds from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). There was an initial $3 million for the floods response in Ethiopia in October, and two further contributions last week for Somalia ($3.3 million), and Kenya ($11.8 million). In Ethiopia, an additional $2.6 million is being requested, and the Somalia contribution from the CERF is expected to rise to above $10.3 million as additional requests from UN agencies are considered. The total funding from the CERF is therefore likely to amount to $28 million. The UK is the largest contributor to this mechanism, providing 26 per cent. of current paid contributions. I welcome this full and speedy response.

National authorities, Red Cross, UN and international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) are all responding. Access to the affected areas is of course difficult. Roads are blocked by the flood waters, and unmade roads are turning to mud and becoming impassable. Bridges and culverts have been destroyed. Aircraft, including helicopters, are being deployed to achieve access where this is impossible by road. In Ethiopia and Somalia insecurity is also a factor.

We continue to monitor the situation closely. We are particularly concerned about likely increases in water borne disease and malaria. Shelter is also a major concern. There are also risks to animal health, which may affect livelihood security in the region. In the medium term, when the flood waters recede a consequence may be improved water availability, improved pasture, and improved soil moisture creating better farming conditions.