The floods in Togo continue to claim victims

Published: 28 September 2007 0:00 CET

Moustapha Diallo in Agotimé-Akoumassi

While the scars left by the floods that swept the north of Togo are still raw, torrential rains have flooded the village of Agotimé-Akoumassi, located in the prefecture of Agou in the heart of the plateau region, 150km from the capital, Lomé. The people in this fertile area, which borders Ghana, are living a nightmare.

The recent torrential rain that lashed the area caused the river to burst its banks, with dire consequences for the people living there. It destroyed homes and devastated crops, resulting in a thousand people being displaced.

“We have lost everything. The rain has destroyed our farms and swept away our supplies and our belongings. Our fields have been flooded, and not even the livestock have been spared,” laments Tété Koffi Emmanuel, group leader at school A, to which some 700 flood victims were evacuated.

“Several hundred people are still trapped by the floods, cut off from the rest of the village. So far, they have received no assistance,” he adds. The only bridge linking this area to the rest of the village, a rudimentary bridge too weak to withstand such heavy rain, was swept away by the raging waters. Luckily, no lives have been lost.

The Togolese Red Cross volunteers were the first to mobilize and began to help evacuate the flood victims right away. They helped affected families to bail the water out, distributed sleeping mats and provided first aid and health advice to victims. They also provided meals for displaced people.

In spite of this assistance from the Red Cross and some sacks of rice provided by the Agou prefecture authorities, the situation remains critical. For the time being, therefore, health and food are the main priorities.

“There has been an outbreak of diarrhoea, gastroenteritis and malaria in the area,” remarks Ozou Kokar, head nurse at the Agotimé Adamé health centre, a situation that prompted the Agou authorities to take measures to 'purify well water'.

Prempay Laté, president of the Agotimé-Akoumassi village development committee and group leader at school B, where around 100 flood victims have taken shelter, observes that: “These people need food urgently. We are desperate because we have nothing left. The few sacks of rice that we were given are already running out.”

This cry from the heart contrasts starkly with the rich land and lush greenery that stretches as far as the eye can see. The threat of a food crisis looms large in Agotimé-Akoumassi. Countless hectares of corn crops, a dietary staple for local people, and reserves of cereals have been ruined by the floods. Many livestock also died in the floods, seriously affecting the livelihoods of people in the area.

The situation is also very worrying in the northern part of the country, in the savannah region. The extent of the floods in this part of the country prompted the government to launch an appeal for international aid.

Togolese Red Cross volunteers have played an active role in operations to evacuate people in this region. They have already distributed 41 tonnes of corn provided by the World Food Programme to 820 families affected by the floods and continue to distribute hygiene kits provided by UNICEF (jerry cans, soap, purification tablets, containers, etc,) in the region. They are also carrying out activities to raise awareness about malaria and waterborne diseases. Stagnant water provides a breeding ground for mosquitos, which transmit malaria.

Even if the situation in the savannah region begins to stabilize, “it will be necessary to increase monitoring with regard to the usual risks associated with floods,” stresses Richard Fradin, head of the evaluation team sent to Togo by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The International Federation has launched a joint emergency appeal for CHF 2.5 million (EUR 1.5 million/USD 2.1 million) for operations in Ghana and Togo. The money will be used, among other things, to provide affected communities with seeds and tools to enable them to regain their self-sufficiency.