UN issues warning on disease threat in flood-affected Libyan city

UN agencies on Monday cautioned that the flood-ravaged city of Derna in Libya, where thousands lost their lives a week ago, is now at risk of disease outbreaks that could trigger “a second devastating crisis.”

The catastrophic flash flood, which has claimed the lives of over 3,000 individuals and left thousands more unaccounted for, struck the war-weary North African nation on September 10, coinciding with the hurricane-strength Storm Daniel.

Traumatized residents, among whom 30,000 are now without homes, are in desperate need of clean water, food, and essential provisions. UN agencies are sounding the alarm about the escalating risk of cholera, diarrhoea, dehydration, and malnutrition in the area.

“Teams from nine UN agencies have been on the ground delivering aid and support to those affected by Storm Daniel and the flash flooding for the last few days,” said the UN Support Mission in Libya.

However, it was emphasised that local authorities, humanitarian organisations, and the UN World Health Organization are expressing deep concern regarding the potential for disease outbreaks, especially due to contaminated water sources and inadequate sanitation facilities.

“The team continues to work to prevent diseases from taking hold and causing a second devastating crisis in the area,” UNSMIL said in a statement.

The rapidly rising waters breached two river dams upstream in Derna, resulting in a late-night tidal surge that inundated the heart of the coastal city, which is home to 100,000 residents.

UN teams, which also include the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the World Food Programme, have been present in and around Derna for the past several days, providing assistance to the survivors.

UNICEF teams have supplied medical kits to primary care services, aiding 15,000 individuals for a duration of three months. Meanwhile, UNHCR distributed essential supplies, such as blankets, tarpaulins, and kitchen equipment, to 6,200 displaced families in both Derna and Benghazi, as reported by UNSMIL.

“So far food rations have been distributed to over 5,000 households through the World Food Programme, and 28 tonnes of medical supplies have been shipped by charter flight from the World Health Organization, which has also donated ambulances and medical kits.”

Just last week, the United Nations initiated an aid appeal, seeking over $71 million to support the emergency response efforts in Derna and various other regions in eastern Libya.

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