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Floods leave thousands of families homeless in Tanzania

Severe floods caused by three weeks of heavy rain have completely engulfed 28,000 families’ homes, forcing them to rely on emergency food and relief. As many as 50,000 people in the east African country have been affected by the floods, which have been linked to the El Nino weather pattern.

In the worst-hit central regions of Morogoro and Dodoma nearly 28,000 people have been forced from their homes and 10,000 left homeless and 10 people have died, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The rising waters have left the East African country’s transport system badly damaged. Entire water and sewer systems have been destroyed, leaving people without safe water.The IFRC yesterday (Thursday) launched an emergency appeal for £984,582 to help it provide 23,000 people with emergency shelter, water and sanitation for the next four months.And the situation is getting worse as more areas like Shinyanga, Mwanza and Arusha are now flooding, leaving tens of thousands extremely vulnerable.“Shelter and food needs have been intensified by the escalating floods,” said Tanzania Red Cross’s Disaster Management Coordinator, Joseph Kimaryo. “From the onset, the Red Cross has active on the ground distributing relief items such family tents, blankets, mosquito nets, cooking sets and water purification tablets. But now our resources are stretched,” Kimaryo said.

Those affected by the rains, which have pounded Kilosa District since the last week of December 2009, were first sheltered in schools and other public facilities, Morogoro Regional Commissioner, Issa Machibya, told the United Nations news service IRIN yesterday. Now regional authorities have set up 24 camps to accommodate 10,585 of the homeless. "We are giving food and shelter to the victims. All is going well," said Machibya. Tanzania's Vice-President, Ali Shein, who visited the areas affected on Wednesday appealed to the international community to continue helping. Speaking to residents of the flood-hit areas at Kilosa Town Primary School, he also appealed to people not to misuse any relief intended for victims. He assured Kilosa residents that the Government would, step by step, restore social services in the district, which include the railway infrastructure that was swept away by the floods. "We shall gradually restore the disrupted services in fulfilment of our responsibilities as we promised during our election campaigns," Tanzania’s The Citizen newspaper quoted him as saying.

Last week the flooding delayed the start of the new school term, because thousands of people were living in school buildings after floods destroyed their homes. Soldiers have arrived in the central Kilosa district to build temporary accommodation for 9,000 people still taking refuge in classrooms. Many others had been living rough for more than a week. Some 125 people, including children and old people were staying in unhygienic conditions in Lwamulilo primary school, the BBC reported. The school's head teacher said some 500 pupils had not been able to go to their lessons as scheduled. One teacher complained that the delays to the new term would affect the children's education. 

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children