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Fears Mount Over More Africa Rain, Floods

Date: 18-Sep-07
Country: KENYA
Author: Jeremy Clarke

"Our estimates show the floods are likely to worsen or
remain at the same level up to October or early November," said
UN World Food Programme Uganda representative Tasema Negash.

Experts say the rising waters may hit as yet unaffected
areas in the coming days, such as Uganda's central regions.

"We are calling on the international community to come to
their rescue before it is too late," said Musa Ecweru, minister
for disaster preparedness in Uganda, where 300,000 people have
already been affected and at least nine killed.

Scores have died in more than a dozen countries often
ravaged by droughts, but now inundated by torrential downpours
destroying settlements and sweeping away crops and livestock --
cornerstones of Africa's developing economies.

Across the continent, uprooted communities shelter in
abandoned schools, churches and under plastic sheeting.

Schoolboys carrying books above their heads wade through
flooded fields, while villagers stand on the muddy wreckage of
homes searching for missing family.

Across east Africa, more than 90 people have now died from
floods and the waterborne diseases that have followed -- at
least 63 in Ethiopia alone.

In west Africa, the UN humanitarian agency OCHA says
floods have affected half a million people. The International
Federation of the Red Cross says 87 people have been killed in
the past two months, mostly in Nigeria.

But those figures are rough estimates as hailstorms,
mudslides and collapsed bridges wreak havoc with relief efforts.

"HUGE IMPACT"

In Kenya, 20,000 people driven from their homes in the
largely agricultural southwest left behind a wilderness of
wasted crops and drowned livestock.

"These people affected depend their lives on agriculture ...
the floods will have a huge economical impact in Kenya," said
Elena Velilla, Medecins Sans Frontieres' head of mission.

The UN World Food Programme says it needs US$29 million in
Uganda to fight the crisis in a country already burdened by
thousands of refugees from neighbouring Congo and more than a
million people living in war displacement camps in the north.

With camps for the displaced fast swelling in countries
across the centre of the world's poorest continent, experts say
the threat of disease is mounting quickly.

"We need medicines because we expect outbreaks of diarrhoea
and cholera," Ben Brown, regional co-ordinator of Ghana's
National Disaster Management Organisation, told Reuters.

Northern Ghana has been particularly badly hit, and the
authorities there have appealed for international help to feed,
clothe and house tens of thousands uprooted by rising waters
that have killed at least 18.

"Malaria may be expected because we have stagnant waters and
mosquitoes will breed," Brown said.

Last week in neighbouring Togo, where at least 20 people
have died since last month, the authorities delayed the start of
the new academic year for a month after 46 schools were damaged.

And in already impoverished Mali and Niger, swarms of
crop-eating locusts are now feared, OCHA said.
(Additional reporting by Francis Kwera in Kampala, Orla Ryan in
Accra and John Zodzi in Lome)

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