Persistent rains aggravate floods in West and Central Africa

تم النشر: 26 أكتوبر 2010 0:00 CET

Moustapha Diallo, IFRC, Dakar

Malick, who lives in the suburbs of Dakar, the capital of Senegal, does not take his eyes off the sky whenever thick black clouds gather. His anxious family pray that more rain does not fall.

“The rain is a gift of God, but now we pray that it will stop. All our houses are flooded," he explains. “We lost everything.”

It’s almost the end of October and still the rains continue to fall. During a week of calmer weather, some homes and schools were almost dry after the authorities had installed pumps. But now these are once again flooded, destroying the efforts to pump the water out.

In the suburbs of Dakar and in several regions of Senegal, health and hygiene are priorities. Latrines were swept away by the water and swarms of mosquitoes formed around the stagnant water, favouring the outbreak of diseases like malaria. One of the major activities of Senegalese Red Cross volunteers, after emergency assistance, is health education, focusing on the prevention of waterborne diseases.

West African countries affected

People living in the suburbs of Dakar and other regions of Senegal are not the only ones suffering from flooding. Many countries in West Africa are also severely affected by the rains.

To date, more than 1.5 million people have been affected by floods. The heavy rains have destroyed public infrastructure and homes leaving more than 375 dead and thousands homeless. With their crops washed away and their livestock drowned, many people are completely destitute.

“The human and material toll of the recent floods in Benin, Ghana and Nigeria is increasing every day, as the results from ongoing assessments arrive," says Aita Sarr Cisse, Acting Disaster Management Coordinator at the Federation’s Sahel Regional Office in Dakar.

Red Cross and Red Crescent Response

In all affected countries, Red Cross volunteers are providing support and assistance to affected populations and conducting assessments of damage and needs. Essential items, such as mosquito nets, blankets and jerry cans had been pre-positioned by the International Federationof Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in some countries, which helped provide immediate assistance.

Regional disaster response teams have also been deployed by the IFRC to support the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’response to the flooding.

Since July, the IFRC has allocated 2,9 million Swiss francs (USD 2,8 million/EUR 2,15 million) from its disaster response emergency fund to assist National Societies in Burkina Faso, Senegal, Niger, Ghana, Gambia, Mauritania, Cameroon, Guinea, Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, Benin and Nigeria to cover the immediate needs of flood victims.

“Long-term support will be required to help people restore their self-sufficiency and we also need to invest more in flood risk reduction programmes,” notes Momodou Lamin Fye, IFRC’s Regional Representative for the Sahel region.

Appeals for Burkina Faso and Chad

Because of the severity and magnitude of damage caused by floods in Burkina Faso and Chad, the IFRC has launched emergency appeals to support the Red Cross societies of both countries to strengthen their assistance to the affected populations.”

For Burkina Faso, the IFRC is seeking 2.8 million Swiss francs (USD 2.7 million /EUR 2.1 million) to help the Burkinabé Red Cross provide assistance to 80,000 people. “In addition to responding to emergency needs, we will also offer grants to the most vulnerable families to allow them to buy livestock, for example.  We will also distribute seeds and tools to help people grow food again,” explains Lazare Zoungrana, National Director, ad interim, for the Burkina Faso Red Cross.

For Chad, the appeal calls for nearly 1.3 million Swiss francs (USD 1,269,732 or EUR 995,930), to provide support to more than 6,300 families affected by floods in regions threatened by a cholera epidemic.

In addition, the IFRC is closely monitoring the devastating floods that hit Benin.