In drought-stricken Niger, the rain brought more despair than relief
In the humid and cold country where I come from, rain is an unpleasant and loyal companion of the every day life. Yet, it rarely causes as much despair and devastation as the torrential showers that have severely hit several areas across the Sahel over the past weeks.
One would think that in the drought-stricken Niger, long-awaited rainfalls would be welcome as a blessing. But they have turned out to be rather a curse, when pouring down several times a week. The resulting flash floods in different parts of this Sahelian country left about half a million people homeless and more than 80 dead.
Nearly 20 kilometers away from the capital city Niamey, the village Sangada Goro has become a little island, completely surrounded by floodwaters. The only way the UNICEF team could access the village was by boat. Mud-made houses have literally been washed away. Food crops have been destroyed. Grain banks have been demolished.
“We lost all our crops,” says Sarando Ganda village chief Seyni Hamadou Sani. “There is nothing to eat here. It is very difficult for children. They are particularly exposed to diarrhea and malaria. In only one week, we had 53 cases of malaria.”
“The cholera emergency in Niger is adding additional burden to the on-going severe food and nutrition crisis in the Sahel,” said Guido Cornale, UNICEF Representative in Niger. “We must intensify our efforts to further prevent the propagation of this disease. (…) Rains and floods lead the disease to spread faster.”
The flooding struck Niger while the country was already facing this year an unprecedented conjunction of disasters ---nutrition crisis, influx of Malian refugees and cholera outbreaks. As dark grey clouds continue gathering in the threatening sky, the village of Sarando Ganda is likely to remain inundated until the rainy season ends. Aid agencies and the government are now working together to ensure as many children as possible can go back to school normally, as the academic year has started this week.
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