On visit to Benin, UN humanitarian chief calls for more to help people deal with floods

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos. UN Photo/Mark Garten

20 October 2012 – The United Nations humanitarian chief has called for a change in the way the international community deals with humanitarian crises and supports governments in improving preparedness and increasing the capacities and coping mechanisms of communities and households faced with floods.

“Humanitarian and development partners must support the efforts of the authorities to inform people better, so they are able to cope with the consequences of climate change,” added the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, while in Cotonou, the largest city in Benin, on Friday.

“We cannot prevent floods, but we can make sure that people know about the consequences,” she said, according to a news release from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which Ms. Amos heads.

Visiting the West African nation at the invitation of President Boni Yayi following severe flooding in the country, the UN official travelled to the lower Ouémé valley, where more than 2,000 people were displaced by floods in September.

While there, she met with people who had been forced to flee their homes and seek temporary shelter with other families, as well as with children who missed weeks of education because their school was under two metres of water.

In 2010, more than 1.7 million people were affected by floods in West Africa, 700,000 of them in Benin, according to OCHA.

This year, more than three million people have been affected by floods in West and Central Africa, including 500,000 in Niger and 1.4 million in Nigeria. Dozens have died in both countries. In addition, the rise of the River Niger has also affected more than 55,000 people in the north of Benin.

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