Church agencies respond to severe flooding in Ghana and Uganda

By staff writers
October 7, 2007

Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) in the USA is among the global church agencies providing emergency assistance to communities hit by severe flooding in Ghana and Uganda.

Nearly 17 African countries have been affected by heavy rains which began in early June 2007. Approximately 1.5 million people have been impacted, including more than 680,000 in West Africa alone.

In West Africa, Ghana has been hardest hit by torrential rains which have left close to 275,000 people displaced in the Upper East, Upper West and Northern Regions. In the Upper East Region, more than 25 people have died and more than 51,000 are internally displaced. Three regions in the north were declared disaster areas by the Ghanaian government.

The floods began in late August, destroying bridges and other infrastructure in addition to killing livestock and ruining thousands of hectares of farmland. Displaced people have been left vulnerable to waterborne diseases such as malaria, diarrhea and cholera.

ERD is partnering with the Anglican Diocese of Tamale in the north of Ghana to provide critical aid such as food, shelter and potable water.

"Torrential downpours over the past few months have caused major floods across Africa, submerging whole towns and washing away bridges, farms and schools, with Ghana and Uganda worst hit," said Janette O'Neill, ERD's senior director for Africa Programs. "Our partners are valiantly trying to meet food shortages, and help farmers plant new crops."

Persistent rainfall in eastern and northern Uganda has affected 400,000 people since July. The government declared a state of emergency for both regions; other affected districts include Katakwi, Soroti, Kumi and Amuria. River Moroto and River Aswa burst their banks, washing away bridges, submerging roads and cutting off some communities.

Most recently, roads leading to Soroti are closed; blocking vehicles from entering the district and in the Amuria and Katakwi districts, most of the schools are closed. The floods have affected the Teso sub-region which is an already highly vulnerable area of the country where many households are dependent on subsistence agriculture and basic services are unavailable.

Many people are in dire need of food since the first season's harvest was lost. Planting for the next season has been delayed and it will take two seasons to recover harvests. Crops, such as groundnuts, cassava, potatoes and sorghum, were ruined.

Springs and other water sources have been contaminated because water and sanitation systems have been severely impacted by the floods. This has caused a rise in the occurrences of malaria, dysentery and cholera. Internally displaced people in the northern part of the country have been left without access to proper sanitation.

ERD is working in partnership with Action by Churches Together (ACT) International to deliver critical aid such as food supplies, blankets, plastic sheeting and medicine to vulnerable people in Uganda. The support will also provide families with planting materials for the coming months as heavy rains are forecasted through November.

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