Widespread Sub-Saharan flooding threatens 18 African countries
Some of the most widespread flooding in years has swept across Sub-Saharan Africa, from Ghana, Niger, Mali, and Togo in the west to Ethiopia, Uganda, and Sudan in the east. In the last 24 hours, the International Red Cross (IFRC) has added Burkina Faso to its emergency rolls after 33 deaths were reported and more than 75-hundred homes destroyed in torrential rains. In addition, the UN World Food Program (WFP) is appealing for three-point eight million dollars to feed 470-thousand victims in Mauritania, where saturated supplies are putting thousands at risk. West Africa information specialist Noora Kero has just returned from a Red Cross mission to Ghana, where she says that damage from this year's African downpours is raising calls for help.
"The floods have been present at this stage in 18 countries. The emergency appeal made by the Federation of the Red Cross was for Ghana and Togo at first, but now it was extended today to Burkina Faso. The total amount is two-point-one million US dollars, so altogether, there will be about 90-thousand people who will be helped during the next three months in these three countries," she said.
Conditions in Ghana have washed out transportation, and Noora Kero says information is in short supply.
"In Ghana there are still a lot of villages that are inaccessible because the White Volta River there has flooded a lot. It's about four to five times wider than normally, and bridges have been broken, roads destroyed. So the overall situation is not even known to the government and everybody yet. But I saw a lot of mud houses that had been collapsed and many farmers in Ghana have lost all their crops as well as the crops stored," she said.
While the storms have not targeted Ghana's southern urban population centers, worst affected are the rich agricultural crop producing areas of the north and northeast of the country, and Kero says the waters have also left food stocks in short supply.
"Because it was very close to the harvest time when the floods began, the farmers do not have a lot stored either. And before the flooding, they had drought. Everybody I talked to says that they need food, that they would only have food for maybe a maximum of a month. And of course, they would also need help to rebuild their houses," says Kero.
The Red Cross aid effort is coordinated internationally and with staff and volunteers from its local and national chapters. The movement estimates that the number of floods in Africa which have required relief aid have jumped eight-fold since 2004. Noora Kero says that besides food and housing, distribution of medical supplies and water purification materials to hold down the spread of infection could prove critical.
"Many people said, 'How will I construct my house if I don't have any money to buy the roofing materials and I don't have food to pay for the local people who will help me to build my house.' But for the health situation, it's also important to give them health education and warn them about water-borne diseases and distribution of water purification tablets and Gerry cans and so on," she said.