West Africa: 130,000 still need support following severe floods, says UN

John Holmes, USG for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator

10 September 2008 – The United Nations humanitarian arm said today that continued assistance is needed for an estimated 130,000 people affected by severe flooding in West Africa, where several countries were already suffering from the impact of the global food crisis.

Months of heavy rainfall led to serious flooding in Togo, Ghana, Niger, Benin, Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal, and to a lesser extent in Liberia and Mauritania, destroying homes, crops and infrastructure, and exposing thousands to water-borne diseases, said the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“In spite of the tremendous challenges we face currently in our efforts to respond to all these weather-related emergencies around the world, we must strive to ensure that all those in need of humanitarian help receive it,” said UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes.

“In West Africa, flooding has hit some of the most vulnerable people who have a limited ability to cope. The international community must not forget them,” added Mr. Holmes, who is also UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.

The immediate needs include maintaining high levels of alert to avert major disasters in the coming weeks and having equipment ready to redirect flood waters away from settlements.

Also vital is providing required health kits to prevent outbreaks of water-borne diseases and delivering food aid to the most vulnerable.

OCHA noted that a series of workshops on flood preparedness and management it held in the affected countries ahead of the rainy season this year helped reduce the impact of the flooding compared to 2007, when some 800,000 people were affected by floods. More than 200 people died due to last year’s flooding, compared to just over 30 this year.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has sent emergency teams to affected areas in Togo and is assisting the government’s response with cash donations. ECOWAS, in partnership with OCHA, is also in the process of setting up a regional stockpile of non-food relief supplies in Mali as a disaster preparedness measure.


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