Rebuilding life after Niger flood
Mounds of rubble, two crumbling walls and not even a roof over her head are all that remain for Nouou Amarou following the floods of 2007.
Torrential rainfall and flooding in July and August of 2007 affected communities throughout six regions of Niger, a vast arid country where four-fifths of the terrain is dominated by the Sahara desert. Flooding displaced more than 50,000 people. The intense rain also destroyed homes and washed away fields and livestock. Survivors moved in with family members and neighbors. Others found shelter in abandoned school buildings and health clinics.
Nouou Amarou's family was left with a dilapidated home-just one of many in the Maikalgo village located in southern Niger near the Nigerian border. Floodwaters washed away cooking utensils, clothes and sacks of millet. Despite Nouou's losses, she remains undaunted by the prospect of rebuilding her family's life.
For the Hausa ethnic group who predominate in this community, agriculture is a way of life. Fields provide a source of income and sustenance throughout the year. Millet, beans, sorghum and peanuts are measures of a household's wealth.
As she stands in front of her temporary home, Nouou explains that they will rebuild once her older children return from migratory work in neighboring countries. Her husband is old and unable to support the family any longer. The fear of floods permeates their lives. Over the past four years, Niger has experienced regular flooding countrywide.
'I Am Grateful'
Houses in Nouou's community cannot withstand the intensity of heavy rains. Walls are made of mud and straw. Roofs constructed of wooden beams are attacked by termites. Mud bricks made from sandy soil crumble under the force of floodwater. In an effort to withstand future flooding, many families in Maikalgo village hope to build stronger mud-brick houses with soil rich in minerals found in the northern zone of Dosso region.
In response to the devastation of the floods throughout Niger, Catholic Relief Services, in collaboration with local partner Caritas Development Niger, conducted an emergency assessment in order to determine what the communities needed most. As a result, blankets, hygiene products (bleach, water filters, soap) and kitchen kits (cooking pot, ladles, bowls) were distributed to 3,805 households in the regions of Dosso, Zinder and Tillabery. These items are helping to stave off diseases, such as cholera, that are linked to the consumption of contaminated water.
In Africa, family members are obligated to share what little they have with each other. "[My daughter] took the products that we received for her own family's use. It's like this in an African family. She uses the bleach to wash food and the soap for the clothes," comments Nouou.
Amid incredible loss, Nouou stands confident. Her smile defies despair.
"I am grateful that we have blankets to protect the children during the cold season. The day of the distribution was a big party," Nouou says, her eyes bright, still able to see what is good.
Jennifer Burns is a CRS communications coordinator based in Niamey, Niger.