January 3, 2005
|UN seeking aid for thousands of African
SHERREL WHEELER STEWART
is on the way for thousands of Africans wiped out last Sunday by a massive
tsunami in the Indian Ocean, but the condition of roads in a region already
devastated by drought, famine and war is slowing the pace of deliveries,
according to officials with relief agencies.
It wasnt until Dec. 31, five days after the disaster, that Somalia, the hardest-hit African country, was declared a disaster area. William M. Bellamy, the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, made that declaration in the country where at least 142 people have been confirmed dead, at least 100 more are missing and as many as 50,000 are without food, water and shelter as a result of the massive tidal wave, according to the United Nations World Food Programme reports.
Weve been told that the island of Hafun in Somalia was completely wiped out, Margaret Carrington, a WFP press officer told BlackAmericaWeb.com. At least 100 are dead there and 4,500 are displaced. They have nothing.
Early last week, two trucks carrying 31 metric tons of food attempted to travel to the remote island but were stuck outside of Hafun because some of the roads are washed out, Carrington said. WFP staff and local officials are using 4-by-4 trucks to transport the food to the affected areas.
Assessments of damage in Somalia still are underway, she said.
In a prepared update, WFP staff described Hafun as a place where most of the houses have been destroyed, personal belongings lay scattered around town and even money is strewn on the ground.
When the waves started battering their island, people fled into the hills near the town in such a panic, that they left their possessions behind, according to the WFP update.
The numbers from Somalia pale in comparison to the death and destruction in places like Indonesia, where at least 80,000 people have died and 1 to 3 million people have been affected. The total number of deaths increases each day as more bodies wash in from the sea or are discovered among the ruins.
At last count, the U.S. Agency for International Development reported 136,000 dead following the Dec. 26 disaster. Pledges for relief have grown to more than $2.6 billion, according to ABC News.
In other African countries, 10 people have been confirmed dead in Tanzania and one each in Seychelles and in Kenya as a result of the tsunami.
This clearly stretches those affected East African areas well beyond what is already the breaking point, said Charles Stith, former U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania.
There is a need to raise of the awareness of the plight people in that part of the continent to ensure that they dont get left behind in the wake of massive aid to the hardest hit areas, said Stith, who currently is director of the African Presidential Archives and Research Center at Boston University. He plans to talk this week with representatives of USAID and other groups that are assessing the damage and the needs of Africans affected by the disaster, according to USAID.
Stith said President Bushs response to the disaster has been consistent with American character. Not only do we step up to the plate, we do more. Whenever there is a crisis, America responds.
Somalia faces additional challenges in recovery from the disaster because of its current unrest, said U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Its more difficult to get a government response in Somalia because there is no government there, said Payne. The interim government of Somalia is operating out of office in Nairobi, Payne said. That country has been in turmoil since dictator Mohammed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991.
East Africa is the least affected region hit by the tsunami, but because of the lack of essential services, relief will be more difficult, said Payne, who has often pushed American leaders to assist and support African nations in crisis.
Carrington said displaced families need urgent assistance, especially food, water, shelter and medicine. Cases of diarrhea and other diseases have already been reported, she said.
Bill Fletcher of TransAfrica Forum warns that things could worsen quickly in East Africa because the lack of food and water can exacerbate an already dire situation.
His Washington, D.C.-based, non-profit agency is monitoring reports of relief and devastation in Africa. Its main goal is to educate the general public particularly American blacks on the economic, political and moral ramifications of U.S. foreign policy as it affects Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.
If people in Somalia do not have clean water, they could begin using contaminated water to drink or wash their clothes and diseases could spread, Fletcher said.
We want to bring the situation in Africa to the worlds attention and enlist the support of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in addressing the needs there, he added. TransAfrica Forum also will network with organizations such as WFP and USAID to enlist assistance in the stricken areas of Africa.
WFP is accepting donations by mail and online, Carrington said. If donors would like their contribution directed to a specific country, they should indicate it on their check, she said.
Or to pay by credit card, visit www.wfp.org
To contribute to USAID, visit