Niger: After the flood, fraud

News and Press Release
Originally published
AGADEZ, 22 December 2009 (IRIN) - Local officials in Niger's northern Agadez region - hit by its most severe storms in decades in September 2009 - have been trying to root out false flood victims in order to redirect aid to needy families and reconstruction.

More than 13,000 homes were partially or completely destroyed by the floods, according to the government.

Motorcycle repairman Attaher Gambo told IRIN his neighbour was unfairly receiving flood assistance. "There are several others like this who have been able to get on the list of flood victims through the complicity of flood victim census takers."

In a 28 November government survey of temporary lodgings for flood victims, more than 100 tents were unoccupied. The ensuing crackdown against flood assistance fraud sparked panic among legitimate flood victims who started leaving the tents based on rumours they would be forced out.

On 9 December Falmata Abdou told IRIN she had been told to leave the stadium in Agadez, one of five temporary housing sites. "But we do not know where to go," she told IRIN. "You can ask people to go [back] to what is left of their homes but everyone knows our neighbourhood is uninhabitable."

Using radio to access victims

In an effort to stop flood victims returning to unsafe homes, the government requested the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to finance radio ads dispelling rumours of forced departures. After one week of radio ads, there were no mass departures from any of the five temporary sites as of 15 December, according to the UN.

More than US$1 million as of October had been given to the regional flood relief committee headed by Agadez governor Abba Malam Boukar.

Boukar told IRIN ongoing work included repairing damaged water wells; installing water and electricity to resettle families; and providing primary and psychological care "to prevent cases of shock linked to the flooding".

He said the authorities were preparing three sites with a total of 1,500 land parcels to resettle people who had been living in the flood-prone tributary that cuts through the town. "For those who complain these parcels are too far from town - where will we find 1,500 parcels in downtown Agadez?" he asked.

The government had said 17 million water purifiers were needed to cover the needs of flood victims from rural areas over the coming three months; US$4,200 was needed to decontaminate water wells in remote areas, and $37,000 to study flood-prone areas.

To date the Niger government has received $3.7 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund. The European Community Humanitarian Aid Department has approved close to $1 million for reconstruction. OCHA is preparing a January workshop for the regional flood relief committee on disaster risk reduction.

Close monitoring needed

Flood assistance needs to be closely monitored to prevent any monies from financing political activities, said secretary-general of the opposition Social and Democratic Rally (RSD), Mallam Abagana.

Agadez businessman Mohamed Algabid told IRIN that items donated for flood relief - including tents, blankets and jerry cans - were not being resold as in the past. "This stuff is not as easy to steal as in the past when it would systematically end up here in the market."