Niger swamped by new humanitarian needs

Mud houses stand on the center island of Lake Debo. The lake is formed by seasonal flooding of the Niger River basin. Photo by: Jialiang Gao / CC BY-SA

First came the drought, then an influx of refugees and a food crisis that has yet to ease. Now, the annual rains have arrived and Niger is faced with an even more complex humanitarian situation.

Tens of thousands of people were left homeless and some 6,000 farms were destroyed by severe flooding in Niger’s Dosso region, according to nongovernmental organization Plan U.K. The floods were caused by the unusual amount of rain over the past week, which amassed more than 200mm  over half of the country’s yearly rainfall  within a six-hour time frame, Plan Niger Country Director Rheal Drisdelle told Devex.

The floods and continuous rains add to the challenge of responding to pockets of hunger and food insecurity in Niger. They come at a particularly “worrying” time  August  the lean period when people are taking fewer meals and are preparing for the next harvest season, Drisdelle said.

Plan has already started providing food, blankets, pesticide-treated nets and antimalarial medicines to people affected by the floods, who currently are staying in classrooms. Schools in the area are built with cement, unlike the washed houses, which were built from mud, Dressele noted.

The organization is also giving out anti-cholera medicines amid fears of a possible spread of waterborne diseases. The need for potable water is high, according to Dressele, as wells have also been contaminated.

Plan intends to launch an aid appeal in response to the floods. But as with any crisis, Dressele knows mobilizing funds will unarguably be a challenge.

This is not the first time Niger experienced severe flooding while also enduring a food crisis. Heavy rains in August 2010 caused flooding across the country and nearby countries, leaving more than 111,000 people homeless. It was considered the worst flooding to hit the Sahel region in 80 years.

Ivy Mungcal contributed reporting.

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About the author

  • Ravelo jennylei

    Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.