West African floods swamp Benin
Cotonou (AFP) Oct 20, 2010
Families sleep by the roadside under shelter made of scrap wood and metal, their homes destroyed by the rains in Benin -- the country seen as the hardest-hit by West African floods this rainy season.
"I had two children who died by drowning on October 2 after the rain that hit Cotonou," said Delphine Behanzin, 37, as she sat in the shade. "I'm lost. They were my reason to live."
Floods have hit a wide swathe of West and Central Africa in recent months, destroying entire villages and killing more than 100 people in Nigeria alone. Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger are among the other nations affected.
The United Nations says 377 people have died in the flooding, with nearly 1.5 million people affected since the start of the rainy season in June.
But UN officials say the small nation of Benin, a country of some 8.8 million people, has been dealt the hardest blow.
Some 43 people have died, while about 360,000 have been affected, according to the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Nearly 100,000 people have been left homeless.
Almost two-thirds of the nation has been hit by flooding, according to a statement issued by the UN which said the humanitarian situation was "becoming increasingly worrying."
A recent survey of the city of Cotonou, the economic capital, and of the country's south by helicopter showed "that the crisis has been underestimated", according to the statement.
Aid officials have rushed to provide clean water and emergency shelter, while further outbreaks of cholera are also feared. There have already been some 800 cases, including seven deaths.
The Vossa neighbourhood of Cotonou is located in a low-lying area, but many of those who lost their homes have set up temporary shelter there anyway, including Behanzin, whose two children were five and two years old.
"What is feared in the coming days is that we face either a malaria epidemic or cholera cases," said Paulin Houenassi, a doctor with Benin's Red Cross.
"The relocation zones that they have chosen are unsanitary and infested with mosquitos."
Heavy rains have hit Benin this season, and the Oueme river has overflowed its banks at a number of locations.
Cotonou is located at the river's mouth, and makeshift camps have sprouted along the city's edge in recent weeks, though the city centre has not been affected.
Aicha, 26, said the rains destroyed her small fruit-selling business and aid has been slow to arrive.
"The aid that people say is being distributed hasn't reached us and nobody hears our calls for help," she said.
Aid organisations acknowledge they face logistical problems in distributing aid, indicating that Benin does not have a sufficient stock of emergency supplies on hand.
Food and equipment supplies, however, have been ordered through a UN regional office in nearby Ghana, said Kemoral Jadjombaye of OCHA. Deliveries should be sent to Cotonou later this week, he said.
earlier related report
"The floods have become recurrent and inescapable with consequences that are more and more grave as the years go by," said the statement read on state television by Communication Minister Djimon Ore.
This year's rainy season saw flooding across vast areas of central and west Africa in particular Nigeria and Benin where hundreds of thousands were affected.
The United Nations said on Tuesday that 377 people had died in the flooding across the region, with nearly 1.5 million people affected since the start of the rainy season in June.
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Cotonou (AFP) Oct 18, 2010
Flooding in the West African nation of Benin has killed 43 people and left nearly 100,000 homeless, a UN official said Monday, citing numbers collected since the beginning of October. "Over about the first 15 days of the month of October, a UN mission has traveled the country's 77 communes and counted 43 deaths due to continued flooding," Kemoral Jadjombaye, an official with the UN's Office ... read more
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