“I came to this school with my family because my house was flooded,” Boubacar Amadou Oumarou told Helvetas team in Niamey, the capital of Niger. “There are at least 1000 people here, we sleep 40 per classroom. Hygienic and security conditions are miserable. Only two toilets are working, and the water from the two taps runs very slow. Children defecate in the courtyard. We need everything”.
Boubacar is one of the 300,000 people affected by the torrential rains that have been battering Niger since June. At least 65 people have died, 34,000 houses have been destroyed, and agricultural production is at risk. Many districts of Niamey are still flooded; where there used to be roads and houses now there is just muddy water. To ensure the mobility of people, the government has even made canoes available for free.
Over the past weeks, many regions in West and Central Africa have been experiencing heavy precipitations that according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) have killed more than 100 people and affected 760,000. Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ghana, Niger, Mali, Nigeria, the Congo Republic and Senegal are among those worst hit.
Poor quality or lack of sewage systems, inadequate wastewater and sanitation infrastructure management are exacerbating the risk of floods and posing serious health hazards.
“Many of those populations live in flood-prone areas. It’s just a matter of time for them to be at risk of epidemics,” OCHA’s director for West and Central Africa, Julie Belanger told Reuters.
Boubacar Amadou Oumarou, in Niamey, Niger
In Niger, Helvetas has been working since 2012 with communities and local authorities to improve water supply and access to sanitation and hygiene. Our team, in coordination with authorities and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), is preparing to intervene by improving access to water, raising awareness on good hygiene practices and distributing materials and products (mats, soaps, disinfectants, water storage containers, hand washing devices, etc.) in two of the sites that are temporary hosting displaced people.
On September 9, the government of Burkina Faso declared a state of emergency following heavy flooding that caused the death of at least 13 people.
The capital, Ouagadougou, is increasingly experiencing the impact of severe floods. On 6 September the incessant rain inundated the fields of Tegawendé cooperative, which produces vegetables in the peri-urban area of Ouagadougou. Eight hectares of cultivations have been destroyed: “I borrowed 200,000 Francs CFA (around 330 CHF or 360 USD) to buy seeds and fertilizers. I have planned to pay them back after the harvest, but now I do not know what I am going to do,” Tasséré Sawadogo, a tomato producer, told Helvetas, looking with great concern at his dying plants.
The cooperative is a member of a tomato business cluster created with the support of PAPEA project. The project is working to boost agricultural entrepreneurship and facilitate the development of market systems in several sectors. The PAPEA team is now partnering with all the sector players to find a viable solution to help producers start over.
Tasséré Sawadogo, tomato producer in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
“I haven’t seen such rain in this area since 1994,” remarks Hamidou Nikiema, president of the Tegawendé cooperative, sadly. But a recent study reveals that the frequency of extreme storms has tripled in West African Sahel since 1980: an intensification linked to rising temperatures in the Sahara, a consequence of climate change.
These extreme events are occurring in an area that is already facing a worsening humanitarian crisis due to violent attacks from armed groups. In Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso there are more than 1.5 million Internally Displaced People, one million in Burkina Faso alone, where more than 530,000 children are acutely malnourished.