Floods and heavy rains across Niger have destroyed crops less than two months before harvest, compounding the country’s existing food crisis, said international aid agency Oxfam.
Flooding has killed at least six people, left thousands homeless, ruined crops and forced hungry families to crisis point.
“Many crops and vegetables that would have provided crucial food to hungry families have been destroyed by floods. People who were praying for rains for their crops to grow have now lost everything,” said Raphael Sindaye, Oxfam’s Deputy Regional Director in West Africa.
In the capital, Niamey, the River Niger has reached its highest level in more than 80 years. Thousands of people have lost their homes, vegetable gardens and rice fields after the river burst its banks.
The UN estimates that more than 110,000 people have been affected by flooding in Niger, many of whom are among the almost eight million facing severe hunger.
Ibrahim Mahaman, head of a flood-hit village said: “It’s a double disaster. Before the rains, people lacked food, now any small reserves of grain they had have been washed away by the water. Nothing remains.”
Heavy flooding across the country is also hindering the delivery of aid with many roads washed away. There are also concerns that floods will increase the risk of malaria and diarrhoea, especially among young children who are already weakened by severe malnutrition.
“We’re helping thousands of people affected by the floods but it is stretching our resources to the limit at a time when we are responding to one of the worst food crises to hit the region in living memory. Niger urgently needs more money to fund not only the food crisis but also to help those hit by this second emergency,” said Oxfam’s Sindaye.
Oxfam and its partners are helping to provide hygiene and cleaning kits, as well as installing water tanks in community buildings where displaced families have been temporarily re-housed.
In the village of Kazoé, in Zinder region, where Oxfam and a local partner AREN (Association pour la Redynamisation de l’Élevage au Niger) have been delivering food, flash floods killed more than a thousand animals, and destroyed houses and crops.
The flooding comes as the World Food Programme acknowledged that it will not be able to help feed 60 percent of those facing hunger in Niger unless it urgently receives more money from donors.
The UN agency says it faces a shortfall of US$88 million and will not be able to carry out its ambitious target to feed nearly eight million in Niger at the peak of the food crisis.
Heavy rains and floods have also affected some parts of Chad and northern Mali, where millions continue to be affected by the food crisis.
Sindaye said: "The situation in West Africa may seem impossibly complex and difficult to solve but if only the international community would invest in long-term predictable development work we could make sure families are a lot less vulnerable to shocks – and double shocks – in the future. It would also save us money."
Niger hit by floods and food crisis
Published 24 August 2010