Flooding in Niamey, Niger, 6 August 2018. Photo: AFP

NIAMEY, 9 August 2018 (AFP) – Twenty-two people are dead and thousands have been left homeless in Niger after torrential rains caused heavy flooding, authorities said.

"As of 6 August 2018, 49,845 people have been affected … and unfortunately we have recorded 22 deaths," Niger's minister for humanitarian action, Laouan Magadji, told public television late Wednesday.

The floods have destroyed more than 3,000 homes and nearly 4,000 hectares of crops, the minister said.

Livestock has also been lost and drinking water supplies have been affected.

The southern regions of Maradi and Diffa are among the worst hit, and some 2,000 people in the capital Niamey have been left homeless after heavy rains earlier this week, said the minister.

He said the government and charities have already distributed food, clothing and mosquito nets to those in need.

The deaths come after the United Nations aid chief raised alarm in June over a worsening food crisis in the Sahel region that has sent malnutrition rates skyrocketing to their worst level since 2012.

Nearly six million people are struggling to feed themselves in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal, where 1.6 million children are suffering from severe malnutrition, said Mark Lowcock.

Niger has faced recurring floods in recent years, including in the desert areas of the north. In 2017, 56 people, including 20 in Niamey, died in floods that affected more than 206,000 people, according to the UN. [more]

Niger floods leave 22 dead and thousands homeless


Children walk through a flooded area in Banga Bana district in Niamey, Niger, 9 September 2017. Photo: Morgane Le Cam / Thomson Reuters Foundation

[This story from 2017 shows how global warming is affecting the Sahel. –Des]

By Morgane Le Cam
19 September 2017

NIAMEY (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Ankle-deep in mud, Mahamane Soumana hesitatingly throws a net in his home’s flooded yard in Banga Bana district, in Niger’s capital.

“I’m a rice farmer, not a fisherman,” he sighs, tugging at the net. “But my field has been completely flooded for the past two months. So I fish in my courtyard.”

Widespread flooding has killed at least 56 people in Niger since the rainy season began in June, and left over 185,000 homeless, according to the interior ministry.

In one of the world’s poorest countries, where most houses are made of earth or mud, flooding has destroyed thousands of homes.

“I used to have two houses, both of which collapsed with the rain,” Soumana told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, as he tried to untangle a couple of small fish from his net, with his children looking on.

But now “I have nothing to house or feed my family, other than fish,” he said.

Soumana’s situation is far from uncommon. For Nigeriens unable to afford cement homes, each rainy season increasingly brings a dangerous ordeal, local experts say.

According to Katiellou Lawan Gaptia, head of meteorology at Niger’s Met Office, climate change in the Sahel is creating warmer conditions where the atmosphere can hold more moisture, often increasing the volume of rainfall.

“This year’s rain is just extraordinary,” he said. “In Niamey alone, the season’s rainfall has increased by 84 percent since 2010.”

Gabagoura, a village northwest of Niamey, is one of the worst affected areas by the recent floods.

On the median strip of the main road, mats and foam mattresses dry on guardrails. Around them, piles of wood and straw are all that are left of more than 290 homes that collapsed at the end of August, leaving 1,200 people homeless.

Village chief Adamou Saley walks towards a massive silk-cotton tree, under which 15 people have taken shelter.

“Look at this misery – total desolation,” he said, looking around at the remnants of homes.

Hadjara Yacouba’s house was entirely destroyed by the rains. “We have nothing, not even a tent,” she said, lowering her eyes.

“I am a widow with 17 children, and we have lost everything.”

Before the start of the rainy season, the government advised people living in flood-prone areas to leave their homes before the rains began, said Boubacar Sidikou, secretary general for Niger’s Ministry of Humanitarian Action and Disaster Management.

But few heeded the advice “because they refused to abandon their homes or had nowhere else to go”, he said. [more]

Niger floods leave tens of thousands homeless as rebuilding lags

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