11 January 2010 The United Nations is helping Albania respond to flooding in the north of the Balkan country, where more than 4,000 people have already been evacuated from their homes, with up to 20,000 more threatened.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) are preparing to support affected families with an emergency cash grant for the purchase of food and other basic needs.
Most of the evacuees are staying with relatives, while some are staying in hotels and student dormitories made available for this purpose. Temporary shelter for about 4,000 persons is available close to the affected areas.
An official from UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) has already arrived in Albania and a second is due tomorrow to supplement a team of European Union (EU) experts.
The floods have been caused by torrential rainfall which started in late December and is still continuing. The situation has been exacerbated by high levels in three dams on the Drini River, from which the Government has been forced to release substantial amounts of water for safety reasons. The regions of Shkodra and Lezha are the most affected.
About 10,270 hectares of farmland have been flooded and nearly 10,000 livestock are at risk. Due to serious damages to the water supply system, many in the flooded communities do not have access to drinking water. Agricultural and transportation infrastructure has been damaged making the area around Shkodra accessible only by small boats.
Some 1,200 rescuers from the army, police, fire fighters and other state departments have been deployed to evacuate people and their animals and provide food and health support, safeguard property, and protect embankments to minimize further flooding.
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