General News of Friday, 21 September 2007

Source: The Statesman

Flood Victims Cry Out

...Where are the relief items?
Thousands of displaced persons affected by the recent flooding disaster in the Upper East Region are yet to receive any form of relief items. About 90,703 persons, mostly women and children, have been displaced while 19,621 houses have been destroyed due to the floods. Also, 150, 000 hectors of farmlands have been destroyed, affecting crops such as maize, millet, groundnuts and guinea-corn, according to the regional minister.

This came to light when a Cabinet Inter-Ministerial Disaster Relief Committee set up by President Kufuor to assess the situation in the 3 northern regions visited the region. Although several relief items have been sent to the region by government, NGOs, religious bodies and private individuals, the situation on the ground indicates that these measures are just a fraction of what is required to normalise the food situation in the region.

The President has already declared the affected areas a disaster zone. Several residents in Gabiri, Kum, Kugblia, Taringa, Mugnuri, Kulungugu and the Builsa community told The Statesman that they have not received any relief items. In Kusabriga No.1, a resident, Mark Ayubeogo said his house got destroyed 3 weeks ago as a result of which he and his families are now putting up with relatives. "They've given us nothing. We have nothing to eat. Everything is gone?, he lamented.

Earlier, when these concerns were mentioned to the regional minister, he explained that although several relief items have been received, they were but ?just a drop in the ocean?.

Help is on the way though. Members of the Inter-Ministerial Disaster Relief Committee, which includes the Ministers of Information and National Orientation, the Interior, and Agriculture, have visited most affected areas and presented food items to the people in an effort to provide relief to flood victims in the disaster zones.

A typical example of the situation on the ground vis-?-vis the relief efforts can be drawn from the Builsa district where 15,000 person have been rendered homeless and 6,000 hectares and 2,180 tonnes of foodstuff have been destroyed. Yet, this district has 224 bags of rice, 397 cartons of oil and 200 pieces of student mattresses, just to mention a few.As part of their work, the team has visited most of the affected areas and even flew to Daboya, which has been cut off due to the floods, to interact with the affected people and presented them with food items which included bread, kenkey, canned fish, and 500 bags of maize, 10 bags of salt, 500 bags of rice and 45 gallons of cooking oil and blankets.

According to a statement issued by Information Minister Oboshie Sai Cofie, three vehicles containing a third consignment of relief items such as plastic buckets, plates, cups, mattresses, bags of rice and roofing sheets from the government have been dispatched to the Upper East Region by the National Disaster Management Organisation. The Ministry of the Interior has also taken delivery of a consignment of relief items donated by the Spanish Embassy for distribution to the affected. Another consignment of non-food items donated by the Japanese High Commission is expected to arrive in Accra shortly consisting of 5 generators sets, 400 blankets, 384 portable jerry cans, 20 tents, 5 water tanks with a capacity of 3500l each, among others.

"The Ministry is also expecting a package from the Salvation Army which will be arriving soon. It includes 100 shelter boxes each containing tents, sheets, cooking pots, blankets, ground sheets, water purification packs, plastic waste sacks, among others. The Chinese Ambassador has donated $30,000 towards relief activities ongoing in the country and GHACEM Limited has also donated 2,000 bags of cement for distribution to the affected communities," she added.

The Ministerial Committee has also met with representatives of some professional organisations like the Ghana Institute of Surveyors, the Ghana Institute of Architects, the Ghana Institute of Planners, the Ghana Institute of Engineers, Ghana Telecom, the Ghana Private Road Transport Union and the Association of Road Contractors and deliberated on ways top speed up the relief effort."At the meeting some measures to be taken were considered to enable government rebuild the infrastructure lost during the flood, prevent such disasters in the future and progress with plans for the reconstruction to the areas affected."

Speaking to The Statesman, Anderson, regional NADMO officer for the Upper East region said the local NADMO was unprepared for a disaster of such magnitude because they do not have in place a "strategic stock of relief items"."If there were strategic stocks, the government would have been better off in handling such a situation", he stressed. According to him, the need for a strategic stock of relief items has been on the drawing board for years but succeeding governments have failed to implement it, and have always "taken things for granted".However, the region was able to respond rather quickly and provided the first relief item on the 29th of August. This was only possible because the regional NADMO built up a small strategic stock out of their own initiative.

Briefing the Ministerial task force, the regional minister, Alhassan Samari said the biggest threat to the region is famine. Farmers make up about 90% of the region's population. In a related development, Interior Minister Kwamena Bartels has reassigned George Isaac Amoo to the disaster desk at the Ministry, and his position offered to Kofi Kesse Manfo, immediate past Deputy Inspector General of Police.