Aid needed to rebuild collapsed houses in Upper Eastern Ghana

Published: 2 October 2007 0:00 CET

Noora Kero, in Bongo district, Ghana

Aduko Akolbire, a widow from Soe community, Upper Eastern Ghana, is leaning against the wall of her hut. It’s one of the few walls still standing after the torrential rains of August caused the rest of the house to collapse.

The widow is now living in a single room with her five children. They are sleeping on a cow skin on the dirt floor, without mosquito nets. Aduko Akolbire does not know what causes malaria. “If my child becomes sick, I take leaves from the tree, mix them with water and rub it on my child’s stomach. If it doesn’t help I’ll take him to the health centre.”

Talking to Aduko is Gilbert Azagsa, one of 400 Ghana Red Cross Society volunteers who is helping to register the needs of people affected by the rains and flooding. Aduko tells him that she is mostly worried about the lack of food and money. She has lost all of her crops except a small amount of stored guinea corn which will last for a maximum of one month. She would also like to rebuild her mudhouse but roofing materials are very expensive. Mud you can get by digging, but other construction materials have to be bought.

“I need some local labour to help me rebuild the house but they should be paid with food, which I don’t have. So how will I be able to get my house rebuilt”, she asks. Aduko Akolbire also needs to ensure it doesn’t rain again before starting to build. The rainy season is supposed to end at the end of October.

Ghana’s Upper Eastern region, with a population of about one million people, is one of three inundated areas in the country. The main crops are millet, guinea corn and ground nuts. The area is especially vulnerable to heavy rain and floods because of its flat, lowlands. According to the secretary general of the Ghana Red Cross Society, Andrews Frimpong, this latest round of floods is the biggest crisis Ghana has faced in terms of natural disasters.

The heaviest rains hit the area in the third week of August. On 27 August the bridge that links the Kugzua and Tamde communities on the White Volta River collapsed. While waiting for the Ghanaian army to rebuild the bridge, local inhabitants must swim or wade across the river.

This is the case for Akoka Yakubu, who travels from Kugzua to Tamde on a bicycle but must carry it on his shoulders while wading across the river. All 15 people in his household have had to sleep in a school after their house collapsed in the rain. Akoka and others from his community cross the river several times a week and some have to walk or cycle 10 kilometres to buy food in a market, and then ten kilometers back.

All his crops were lost in the rains. “Because of the destruction of crops, prices in the market are three times higher than usual so I don’t know how long our money will last. Life is becoming really unbearable”, says Akoka Yakubu.

A little further away the river is the Bugri health Centre. It is managed by midwife Magdalena Pwatio, who is looking at the numbers of cases of malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory tract infections reported recently. She explains to International Federation health delegate John Haskew that, following the rains and floods, there is an increased incidence of illnesses compared to normal for this time of year. However, over the past month, the risk of outbreak of water-borne and vector-borne diseases has receded somewhat, along with the water levels.

On October 2, the International Federation extended its emergency appeal for West Africa floods to include help for flood victims in Burkina Faso. The total appeal is for 2.9 million Swiss francs (US$ 2.5 million/ euro1.7 million) – the funds will be used to assist 95 000 flood-affected people in Ghana, Togo and Burkina Faso, over the next six months. In Ghana the Federation aims to provide people with mosquito nets, tarpaulins and sleeping mats as well as water purification tablets, jerry cans, oral rehydration salts and soap.