West Africa: UN agencies step up relief efforts in wake of widespread floods

3 September 2008

United Nations humanitarian agencies are expanding their relief efforts across West Africa, where rising flood waters have displaced hundreds of thousands of people in seven countries, damaged major infrastructure and sparked the threat of widespread outbreaks of infectious diseases.

UN agencies are at work in Togo, Ghana, Niger, Benin, Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported yesterday, amid concerns that heavy rains may continue through this month.

Six camps for populations displaced by flooding have been set up around Lomé, the capital and largest city in Togo, OCHA said, with two currently managed by the Togolese military.

The camps house around 4,000 flood victims, including 1,200 children. More than 1,500 others, including 200 children under the age of five, have been affected by heavy rains in the central region of Sokode.

Flooding has caused major infrastructural damage across Togo, including the destruction of 11 bridges. It has also forced up transport costs and resulted in a dramatic hike in the price of basic food staples.

The devastation in Togo also has a humanitarian impact on populations of landlocked countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, who rely on the port of Lomé for the supply of many goods conveyed by road, as rerouting via neighbouring Ghana or Benin is more expensive.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is planning to build a $400,000 temporary bridge linking the northern and southern Togo to help alleviate some of the suffering caused by the flood damage to the region.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been supplying clean water, sanitation, mosquito nets, drugs and vaccinations to the almost 200,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) across the region, including 150,000 IDPs in Benin alone.

The campaign is aimed at reducing the intensified threat of malaria, diarrhoeal diseases and respiratory infections, especially for children.

Other UN agencies, such as the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), are assisting in the relief efforts.


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