Worst flooding in more than 80 years affecting half a million people in Niger

Africa, Emergencies, Media Releases, News article written on the 21 Sep 2012

International aid agency Oxfam has warned that devastating floods in Niger are affecting more than 500,000 people, most of whose basic needs are not being met.

Floodwaters in the capital Niamey and surrounding regions have risen unrelentingly since rains began in July, destroying thousands of houses and more than 7000 hectares of crops.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that more than 80 people have already died from the floods.

Oxfam calls for a scale-up of aid efforts to assist the most vulnerable families affected by the floods and help them survive this crisis.

Oxfam Australia aid worker Louise Mooney, who is currently in Niger, said although rain was needed, this year’s excessive rains had destroyed thousands of houses and farmland.

“Families already struggling to survive have lost everything. These floods were the last thing the country needed,” Ms Mooney said.

Earlier this year, drought across the broader Sahel region of West Africa brought about a hunger crisis that continues to affect more than 5.5 million people in Niger, where cholera has also killed up to 96 people so far.

Now, exceptionally high food prices, combined with the loss of crops to the floods, are making Niger’s challenge of feeding its people even harder. The Australian Government has provided $30 million to the West Africa food crisis.

To respond to the floods, Oxfam and its partners are distributing household kits including soap, mats and mosquito nets, and water and sanitation provisions to almost 40,000 people.  Distributions are ongoing in Niamey, Tillabéry, Zinder and Maradi, and will be followed by assistance to rebuild their houses and earn a living.

“This is an urgent situation for everyone. As a temporary measure, schools in Niamey are sheltering flood victims, but thousands of students have to go back to school, and the beginning of the school year has already been postponed by two weeks,” Ms Mooney said.

In addition to the emergency assistance provided, Oxfam said a longer-term solution is needed for families to get back on their feet and avoid being flooded again in the future.

To donate to Oxfam Australia’s West Africa Food Crisis Appeal go to www.oxfam.org.au or call 1800 034 034.

Oxfam Australia aid worker Louise Mooney is available for interview in Niger. For interviews or more information please contact Oxfam Australia media coordinator Chee Chee Leung on 0400 732 795 or cheecheel@oxfam.org.au