As West African Floodwaters Rise There Are Increasing Fears for Food Security
Hundreds of thousands of people have been affected by heavy flooding along the Niger River over the last few weeks. Niger, Mali and Benin have been particularly hard hit, with dozens of deaths, tens of thousands of houses destroyed and vast areas of farmland submerged by rising waters. In Niger alone, more than half a million people have been affected by floods. As of Sep. 12, 75 people had been killed, 37,000 homes submerged and crops destroyed in 150 of the country’s 366 communes, according to prime ministerial spokesman Oumarou Keïta, who also sits on Niger’s Inter-ministerial Committee for Prevention and Monitoring of Floods.
Flooding has been especially severe in Dosso, in the southwest, Tillabéri, in the west, and the capital, Niamey.
The scale of devastation in Niamey is such that Nigerien authorities have had to shelter displaced people in schools while preparing better sites for temporary housing.
“Since our house collapsed on Aug. 21, I’ve been living in this school with my husband and five children in very close quarters. There are three families sharing this single classroom with us,” said Fatouma Alzouma, 47, a resident of Saga, one of the Niamey neighbourhoods worst affected by the floods.
“We have had some assistance, but the food and other support they have given us is insufficient because people who haven’t lost their homes have fraudulently got their names onto the lists,” said Alzouma.
Koné Soungalo, a hydraulic modelling expert at the Niamey-based Niger Basin Authority, said the city is vulnerable to flooding because of the flat terrain.
Heavy rainfall throughout the two million square kilometre river basin has swollen the volume of water, he told IPS. Accelerated build-up of sand on the bed of the river - caused by degradation of land by human activity elsewhere in the river system - has aggravated the problem.
“The siltation obstructs the river’s flow, and causes a sharp rise in the water level over its banks here, as we saw a few days ago.”