September 08, 2009|By Moni Basu CNN


Women walk in the flooded streets of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.


Torrential rains and flooding since June have affected 600,000 people in 16 West African nations, the United Nations reported Tuesday.

The worst hit have been Burkina Faso, Senegal, Ghana and Niger, said Yvon Edoumou, a spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, in the Senegalese capital, Dakar. So far, 159 people have died, he said. Sierra Leone has also been hard hit, according to the U.N.

Edoumou said removing water from flooded areas is a top priority, but powerful pumps are in short supply.


"Some people refused to leave their homes so they are living in floodwaters," he said.

The United Nations has not yet received reports of waterborne diseases, but Edoumou said a real threat exists of diarrhea or, worse, cholera.

The U.N. World Food Programme said Tuesday it has begun distributing food to tens of thousands of homeless flood victims.

WFP has set a goal of feeding 177,500 people, mainly in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, where 150,000 people have been affected and key infrastructure -- including a central hospital, schools, bridges and roads -- has been damaged.

The flooding in Burkina Faso is the worst in 90 years, WFP said.

Many of those in Ouagadougou most needing help were already receiving aid from WFP, but those rations were lost in the floodwaters, the U.N. reported.

"It is always the poor and vulnerable who suffer the most from floods like these as their few remaining assets are swept away, leaving them hungry and destitute," WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said.

Roads and buildings have been ruined from Mauritania to Niger, the U.N. reported. In Agadez, Niger, a town about 458 miles (738 km) north of the capital, Niamey, close to 988 acres (400 hectares) of vegetable crops and hundreds of livestock were washed away.

Herve Ludovic de Lys, head of OCHA in West Africa, said natural disasters have a lasting effect that unravels years of progress against poverty.

"The situation is very worrying," he said in an OCHA statement issued Tuesday.

The rainy season in West Africa begins in June and continues through late September. In 2007, 300 people died and 800,000 were affected by the storms.

This year, fears abound that more heavy rain will fall in already waterlogged areas.

Despite the misery, Edoumou said the rains are a mixed blessing for countries dependent on agriculture. The harvest this year will be more bountiful, he said.


Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre - IDMC - http://www.internal-displacement.org/8025708F004D31AA/(httpIDPNewsAlerts)/403789A01C2EDDE3C1257A70004F61A7?OpenDocument

Mass Displacementsby Floods Sweeping Across West Africa

Torrential rains have struck several West African countries during the past few weeks resulting in mass displacements throughout the region. Following a severe drought, the August floods have exacerbated an ongoing regional food security crisis.

In Niger, the government reports that 52 people were killed and nearly 400,000 displaced after heavy rains affected all seven regions of the country in what some have called the worst flooding in a century. In Niger’s capital, Niamey, floodwaters washed away mud-brick homes, and destroyed vital food crops. In Senegal, Dakar and other cities were hit mid-August by floods which have caused the death of 13 people and reportedly displaced thousands.

In neighbouring Mali, heavy rains in Ségou and Kayes regions affected close to 12,000 people. For Malian IDPs and refugees caught up in conflict , the rains have added to a complex emergency situation.

One third of Nigeria’s 36 states are expected to be affected by floods and landslides this rainy season, according to Nigeria’s disaster management agency. At least 10 people were killed and 20,000 displaced in eastern Nigeria following heavy rains and the release of a dam in neighbouring Cameroon. Another 3,000 were displaced in Nigeria’s Taraba state, where several villages wereswept away. Attributed to ineffective drainage systems, the floods have killed livestock and caused many homes to collapse in Nigeria’s worst-affected states of Yobe, Kebbi, Bauchi and Jigawa. In Plateau state, the rain has washed away roads and bridges, hampering rescue efforts.

The flooding has also increased the risk of water-borne diseases. In Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Niger, the flooding has exacerbated a cholera epidemic which has already claimed the lives of several dozen people.