OMUGENYA, Uganda – Floods have ravaged African nations including Ghana and Togo in the west, along with Sudan, Uganda, Somalia and Kenya in the central and eastern regions. At least 200 people have died and hundreds of thousands are displaced.
Humanitarian workers were trying to reach villages that have been cut off by water, even as rain continued to fall in many places. In Uganda, at least 21 people have died since August.
Flood-hit Africans were surviving on just one meal a day, sleeping in abandoned schools and moving to ever-higher ground. The Ugandan government declared a state of emergency Thursday in the worst flood-affected areas, allowing funds to be diverted directly to the relief effort.
"We expected the rains, which have been falling since early August, to ease off but they are getting worse, and we are seeing more and more people affected," said Uganda's Relief and Disaster Preparedness Minister Tarsis Kabwegyere.
In Ghana, which also is under a state of emergency, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said a field assessment has shown 260,000 people were affected and 20 killed.
"Food is identified as one of the major needs, with vulnerable populations in the affected areas resorting to one meal per day as a coping mechanism," the office said in a statement Thursday. "Market prices have doubled for most commodities. Lack of safe drinking water remains another major concern."
In Omugenya and many other African villages, mud huts have simply dissolved in the driving rain. Fields growing rice, sweet potatoes and ground nuts are submerged. The tips of bushes and small trees poke through the murky water.
The U.N. chartered a helicopter to airlift supplies to areas in Uganda where floods rendered roads impassible.
"We are targeting those in direst need. Many people have had to abandon their homes and are now sheltering in primary schools," said Geoffrey Edong, the World Food Program's regional chief. "Until we provide them with support and alternative accommodation they cannot move and the schools cannot operate."
Deborah Anango, a mother of nine who lives in a tiny settlement called Agule, said it will take months to rebuild homes, even the simplest thatched huts.
"The grass for thatching will be very hard to come by now because the floods have made all the vegetation rot," she said. "Our future is looking terrible."