MARERE, Somalia (AP) – Thousands of people have built makeshift structures on hilltops and bridges turned into tiny islands by the overflowing Juba River in central Somalia on Monday, and international agencies struggled to deliver aid to one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

The Juba and Shabelle rivers in Somalia have flooded hundreds of villages. Thousands of homes remained submerged in the villages of Marere and Ormale.

“We are providing medical care to as many people as we can in the area, but the lack of access is making life extremely difficult,” said James Lorenz, regional spokesman for Medecins Sans Frontieres. “There are tens of thousands of people who are in desperate need of assistance and little aid is forthcoming.” Lack of clean drinking water is the main concern, because many of the wells have been flooded, Lorenz said.

“Then we are worried about food, because a lot of the food supplies have been destroyed,” he added.

The United Nations said it was going to launch an appeal for $12 million by the end of the week for flood victims in Somalia. District commissioner Harrison Lende said the Mwanza River overflowed its banks causing severe flooding in several villages.A United Nations report said U.N. officials met with donors Sunday to discuss the situation in Somalia and to identify funding gaps. “Priority gaps are in water and sanitation, health and logistics sectors,” the report said. Malaria was a special concern because of the number of people who are sleeping outdoors. The U.N. was hoping to find local groups to help distribute anti-malaria materials, the report said.

Eric Laroche, the U.N.’s humanitarian chief for Somalia, said war posturing by the transitional government and an Islamic movement was hindering aid delivery and a “corridor of peace” needed to be created so aid can reach 330,000 people who have fled their homes to escape the worst flooding in a decade.

He said in the worst case scenario, 1 million people could suffer from the flooding if weather forecasts are correct and the seasonal rains last longer than normal.

Farther south in the nation of Malawi, two women were missing and feared dead after being swept away in floods in the southern town of Blantyre, a senior district official said.

District commissioner Harrison Lende said the Mwanza River burst its banks in several villages in the southern Lower Shire Valley. He said the flooding took villagers by surprise.

The World Meteorological Organization has forecast an El Nino weather pattern, which could cause the worst flooding in 50 years in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Rural residents have just begun to recover from a drought earlier this year. As a result of the back-to-back natural disasters, the World Food Program has said that more than 18 million people may require assistance this year.)


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