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Thousands in Africa wait for aid amid catastrophic floods

KAMPALA (AFP) -- African nations that bore the brunt of the continent's worst floods in three decades face a new epidemic threat and on Friday stepped up appeals for international help.

At least 300 people in 20 countries have died in floods over the past two months, according to figures from governments, hospitals and humanitarian sources compiled by AFP.

As the extent of the damage begins to emerge epidemic warnings are growing.

In Rwanda, where at least 15 people died this month in flash floods, two cholera cases have been reported in flood districts, said Innocent Nyaruhirira, minister in charge of epidemics.

Cholera outbreaks have already caused 68 deaths in Sudan, one of the countries worst hit by the flooding. The United Nations said up to 625,000 people could be in need of emergency aid in Sudan.

Neighboring Uganda has also been heavily affected by the floods, with at least 400,000 people in need of assistance in eastern regions.

The European Union has decided to donate some two million euros ($2.8 million) to Togo, Ghana and Burkina Faso, EU officials said.

Besides paying for supplies, the money is also to be used to help prevent the spread of malaria.

The Togo government on Friday made its own urgent appeal for food and medical aid.

Twenty three people have been reported dead in the West African nation and Cooperation Minister Gilbert Bawara told AFP: ""We are launching an appeal for solidarity and international aid to relieve the people hit by the floods.""

""We need food, medicines and the means to rebuild infrastructure,"" Bawara said.

The flooding of key roads has paralyzed the delivery of aid.

Ugandan Minister of State for Refugees and Disaster Preparedness Musa Ecweru said the floods had affected cross-border traffic into southern Sudan and hundreds of trucks have been forced to take a longer route to the stricken region.

The non-government organization ActionAid has criticized the relief effort in Uganda, where close to 20 people have died since the floods began and a massive food shortage looms.

""There is still very slow response on the ground especially from government, though a lot has been promised since the floods in northern and eastern Uganda have now been declared a national disaster,"" it said in a statement.

The organization warned that the crisis had caused the prices of fuel and basic food supplies to soar.

Nigeria's Red Cross announced Thursday that 64 people had died in the country in the floods and that 22,000 people have been displaced in 10 northern states in Africa's most populous nation, as well as in the Lagos area in the southwest.

Burkina Faso, one of Africa's poorest nations, has reported 33 deaths and nearly 7,500 homes destroyed.

Countries as far north as Algeria were also affected. Algerian officials said Thursday there had been 21 million euros ($30 million) of damage in floods last weekend alone.

And there have been warnings about the future.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the number of floods in Africa where the movement has provided relief aid had jumped from five in 2004 to 32 in 2006, which was a ""worrying"" eightfold increase.

By mid-September, the number of floods on the continent that mobilized Red Cross aid so far this year stood at 42.


 

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