ETHIOPIA: Flood survivors struggle one year on

Thursday, August 30, 2007

For Yenenesh Tesfaye, a 28-year-old flood survivor from the eastern Ethiopian city of Dire Dawa, the memory of 6 August 2006 is still raw.

She and her family were asleep when a heavy downpour caused the Decahtu river to flood large parts of the city. Yenenesh's husband, Ephrem Teshome, and their three-year-old child drowned. A second child, six-year-old Natalina, was in another area of town visiting her grandfather and survived.

"When the flood took me, my left leg was broken and I was in a wheelchair for six months," she told IRIN.

Dire Dawa, 500km east of the capital, Addis Ababa, was established in 1910, but has a history of flood disasters. Severe flooding submerged the city in 1981, 1990, 2000 and 2005.

The 2006 floods claimed 256 lives and displaced more than 5,500 people.

Authorities have been endeavouring to provide homes for those displaced by the floods but of the 735 houses planned, only 300 are ready.

"Three hundred families have got their houses based on the criteria set by the administration," Abraham Sahlu, head of the Disaster Prevention and Food Security Office of the administration told IRIN. "If the victims lost families, were orphaned, are living with HIV/AIDS, disabled, aged or have children under the age of 18, they fulfil the criteria for qualifying for the [housing] draws," he said.

Yenenesh is one of the beneficiaries of the new single-room houses built by the Dire Dawa administration in the Chigene Tabia area of the city. "I have received a house with a toilet from the administration," she said. "There is electricity in the toilet and veranda of my house, but the system inside my house is not functioning," she complained. "When we asked the power provider, they told us to pay some money. Where can we get it? We are living on a monthly food ration provided by the city administration."

The ration comprises 15kg of rice and a half-litre of edible oil per head. Rations will be distributed until the end of September 2007.

Yenenesh suggested the administration should provide some money for the flood survivors to add a kitchen to the houses.

Some of the beneficiaries, such as Halima Ibrhaim, have, in fact, started adding rooms to their new homes.

"I lost everything during the floods," she said. "However, God saved me with my eight children. The single room I received from the administration is not enough for my whole family," said Halima, a second-hand clothes trader.

"I saved some money which I am currently using to build additional rooms," she explained.

Abraham said lack of funds forced the administration to build small houses without kitchens. "Each house is estimated to cost 40,000 birr [US$4,390]," said Abraham. "The victims are free to build additional rooms and kitchens in the space available."

An estimated 100 million birr ($10.9 million) was pledged for the national flood recovery effort, but only 39 million birr ($4.2 million) has been made available.

The funds would also be used to construct dykes along a 4km stretch of the Decahtu river to prevent flooding in Dire Dawa whenever there is heavy rainfall upstream.

According to Adulaziz Mohammed, the mayor of the Dire Dawa, the flood rehabilitation fund gave priority to repairing damaged infrastructure, restorating livelihoods and finding a durable solution to the problem of flooding in the city.

Flood survivors still awaiting houses who could not be accommodated in temporary shelters received 150 birr ($16.4) per family per month to rent homes, but they are now worried that the homes they are expecting from the administration may not be ready by the time the money runs out at the end of September.

Source: IRIN
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