Togo: Recovering from the flood

Published: 1 October 2008 0:00 CET

Moustapha Diallo, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, in Togo

In Togo and Benin, floods have affected more than 7,000 families and caused the displacement of a further 1,600, mainly in the plateau and coastal regions.

Nine bridges were destroyed by the heavy rainfall, making it difficult to get aid through to some communities. Most people have since returned to their homes after taking shelter in neighbours’ homes or schools.

Although the waters have receded, scenes of desolation remain. Dwellings lie in ruins, piles of rubble and zinc sheets are strewn on the ground, thatched roofs are wrecked and corn fields - which provide the main staple here – have been completely devastated.

Reconstruction work

Like other Togolese villages affected by the floods, Aviyémé is now healing its wounds. For many inhabitants, it is time to begin reconstruction work, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is there to help them.

With the help of the Togolese Red Cross, the IFRC has distributed aid to nearly 1,500 affected families, with each one receiving a blanket, two sleeping mats, soap, kitchen utensils, a jerry can, pots, an insecticidal mosquito net, hygiene kits and containers for purifying water. In Benin, these items were distributed to a further 500 families.

The operation was financed thanks to a revised emergency appeal for 1.08 million Swiss francs (670,000 euro/983,000 US dollars), launched by the IFRC in response to the floods in Togo and Benin and also for other smaller-scale emergency operations in other countries in the region.

Invaluable assistance

“This assistance is invaluable to us. It is the first that we have received since the floods,” explains Didier Todjro, who lives in Aviyémé.

He still finds it difficult to find the words to describe the nightmare he and his fellow villagers have lived through. “It rained non-stop for hours, and the village was suddenly transformed into a huge pool. The water came up to our knees,” he recounts.

Todjro was working as a labourer in a quarry a kilometre from his home when the crisis occurred. “I had to brave the flood waters to get back to help my family. When I got there, the Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers helped me, but unfortunately we were only able to salvage the mattress and the television before the house collapsed,” he says.

Lost possessions

This modest family has lost the rest of its possessions as well as its two-roomed house, which has been reduced to a pile of stones, wood and zinc sheeting. Their corn fields were not spared by the deluge either. Todjro, along with his wife and two children, is now staying with his older brother.

“Talking about the disaster is a form of therapy for me, but also a way of paying tribute to the Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers who have helped us so much,” he says.

Koffi Egah, Secretary General of the Togolese Red Cross, believes that the damage could have been worse without the weather warnings disseminated among the communities by Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers.

“Some communities, who were warned in time that heavy rains were on the way, were able to put their possessions under cover. Others preferred to leave their homes and take shelter in safer places,” he explains.