Ghana: the Red Cross builds new houses for victims of last year’s floods

Published: 18 April 2008 0:00 CET

Life is now back to normal in the village of Daboya in northern Ghana. The Volta River crossing, which links the village to the rest of the country, can now be negotiated without difficulty. The pirogues ferry people continuously from one side of the river to the other, while the fishermen venture further afield in search of fish.

Daboya was affected last year by severe flooding, coupled with the swelling of the Volta River, which washed out crops and destroyed hundreds of houses, leaving thousands homeless. Some houses still bear the signs of the devastating event. Their present state not only bears witness to the extent of the damage, but also to the harrowing ordeal that the people have endured.

“I lost everything in the floods. My home was completely destroyed. I was desperate and didn’t know what to do or where to go with my two wives and six children,” explains Ibrahim Shaibu.

A relative living in a neighbouring town offered him and his family shelter for several months in a room barely 9m2 in size.

The story of Ibrahim ends well, with a brand new two-roomed house that the Ghana Red Cross Society has just built for him. A carpenter, assisted by the volunteer Ilyasu, secures the roof, marking the completion of the work.

In a few days, it will be ready for Ibrahim to move in with his family. 

The simple design of the house, with its solid foundation and evenly laid bricks, contrasts with that of other constructions on the family plot, which are all made of dried mud and clay.

“This new house is nothing like the one I lived in before. It is much nicer. It is also very solid and capable of withstanding any floods that may occur in the future,” observes Ibrahim, overjoyed.

“This house is part of a reconstruction programme to build 320 houses launched by the Ghana Red Cross Society and the International Federation in the northern and eastern parts of Ghana after the devastating floods that occurred in August and September 2007, leaving thousands of people homeless,” remarks John Attisu, the Ghana Red Cross Society disaster management coordinator.

These houses are being built thanks to funds raised by the International Federation in response to the appeal that it launched after the floods.

Over the past few months, reconstruction has been in full swing in the village of Daboya, in the north of the country, and in Balungu and Zorko in the east. The suffocating heat that plagues these areas does nothing to dampen the enthusiasm and eagerness of the people to finish the houses with the aid of Ghana Red Cross Society volunteers, mobilized for this purpose. There are 37 volunteers involved altogether, 21 in Balungu and Zorko and 16 in Daboya.

“Most of the houses are now finished,” says John Attisu.

In the Bongo district of Zorko, in eastern Ghana, Amoapoka Anoo, a 72-year-old widow has already received her new house.

Since the floods, she had always refused to leave her home, although it had been ruined by the flood waters, preferring to live with her family of eight crammed into a hut, the only structure that withstood the floods. Amoapoka has spent all her life in this house with her husband, who died a few years ago.

“This house holds so many memories for me that leaving it would mean turning my back on the past and a part of me,” she explains. “I give thanks to God and the Red Cross for helping me to rebuild my house on the same site that my husband left me,” she adds.

The reconstruction programme gives priority to families whose homes were completely destroyed and is the final stage of the operation to assist flood victims in Ghana, following the emergency relief operation. The programme received technical assistance from the Department of Rural Housing, which has introduced a new technique for reinforcing foundations.

“The Red Cross provides beneficiaries of the programme with construction materials, including sacks of cement, nails, hammer, shovel, saw, zinc sheets for the roof and windows and doors. It also provides the foundation of the house and pays bricklayers and carpenters,” explains Muntari Ayayi, a Ghana Red Cross Society volunteer in Daboya.

It is up to the families to provide water, sand and wood and see to erecting the structure on the foundation.

“The villagers are copying the Red Cross' construction design, which is a very positive development. We have also learnt many things from the experience, which will enable us to improve future house reconstruction programmes,” remarks Andreas Koumo Gopino, coordinator of the reconstruction programme.

The sun sets over Ghana. Between now and April 2008, 320 families will be able to move into their new homes.