Coping with floods in Niger

Heavy rains and flash floods have devastated different localities in Niger, exacerbating an already complex humanitarian situation

NIAMEY (Niger), 4th September 2020 - “The river is flooding,” Amina, 8, shouting outside and alerting her neighbors, in Niamey, the capital city of Niger. “The water is almost waist high.” Amina grabbed her two siblings and fled to higher ground together with her father and mother. She was forced to leave everything behind.

“At around eight in the morning I was helping friends who had been affected by the floods. When I returned home to check on my own property the water was almost a meter deep in both my huts. To begin with the water came very slowly so we didn’t realize how serious the situation was, then very suddenly the water was overwhelming. We managed to retrieve a few items, but the flood has left me and my family with basically nothing,” her father, Moussa, says.

Since July this year, heavy rains in Niger triggered flash floods across the country. Some families lost everything, including their homes, income, and crops. Like Amina, many children and their families who were hit by flash floods lost their livelihoods and were forced to live their home. For her father Moussa, the biggest worry is finding a safe place for his families. They now face an uncertain future.

“Now I have to find a new place to live and work really hard to recover, but I know I can’t live in the same place again, even though the land there is good for growing my crops, I’m too scared of the floods coming back. I lost everything and now I have to start again from scratch” he says.

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Moussa and his family have been relocated to a school which serves as a temporary disaster shelter in the capital city. In her village, dozens of mud homes collapsed along the river, while all household items and livestock were washed away.

According to the General Direction of Civil Protection, flooding caused by heavy rains in Niger has affected more than 283,000 people and left 51 dead and 71 injured as of end of August.

With financial support from the Government of Japan, UNICEF is currently supporting the Government in providing affected families with non-food items such as, blankets, carpets, mosquito nets, soap, water containers, menstrual hygiene management kits, to affected people in the regions of Zinder, Maradi, Tahoua and Diffa. This will help UNICEF and partners to reach nearly 1,500 households.

“Providing NFI support in emergencies is essential to ensuring the safety, security, health, dignity and wellbeing of people affected by disasters” explains Giuliaserena Gagliardini, Emergency Specialist at UNICEF.

With UNICEF support, the training of civil protection trainers on KOBO digital disaster assessment tools conducted in August was instrumental to strengthen the capacities of regional Civil Protection structures on the evaluation and transmission of data using tablets devices. This helped the Operational Center for Crisis Alert and Management (COVACC) to gather accurate real-time information and use that data to reach the most in need.

“Floods or other natural disasters are largely unavoidable, but they only become disastrous when a population is unprepared or unable to cope. Empowering vulnerable people to deal with what nature presents is critical to improving their lives, especially within a climate change scenario” concludes Gagliardini.