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Floods in Somalia affect millions of children

Floods have submerged villages, washed away bridges and damaged roads in south-central Somalia, making it difficult for aid to reach victims.

india Updated: Nov 17, 2006 15:27 IST

Nearly half a million Somali children need emergency aid following the worst floods for half a century in the impoverished Horn of Africa country, aid workers said.

Floods have submerged villages, washed away bridges and damaged roads in south-central Somalia making it difficult for aid to reach victims still trapped in the stagnant waters and stoking fears of disease.

Large swathes of farmland are submerged and food stocks have been washed away due to torrential rain pounding the country.

"This is the worst flood in the region for 50 years," Gareth Owen, deputy director of emergencies for charity Save the Children, said in a statement late on Thursday.

"Up to half a million children could be affected and they urgently need our help."

According to the charity, at least 80,000 people in the central town of Baladwayne, the worst affected area, are in danger after the Shabelle River rose to dangerous levels.

The agency said it would airlift 42 tonnes of relief items including blankets, mosquito nets, plastic sheets and water containers needed to help vulnerable children in Baladwayne.

"Our immediate priority is to provide shelter and access to clean water for these vulnerable children," Owen said.

At least 47 people drowned and thousands were left homeless two weeks ago when the Shabelle and Juba rivers burst their banks after heavy rains. The rivers pass through the most agriculturally productive regions in Somalia.

Aid workers expect the death toll to rise as thousands of poor farming families sleep out in the cold, exposed to malaria and water-borne diseases.

Somalia, one of the world's poorest countries, plunged into anarchy in 1991 after a dictator was overthrown by warlords. Since then tens of thousands have died from violence and hunger.

Islamists who control most of the south of the country have appealed for international help to deal with the floods.

Heavy rains have been pounding the region, bringing misery to parts of Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Eritrea.

First Published: Nov 17, 2006 15:27 IST