Flood-Devastated Benin Requests Millions for Emergency Aid

Torrential rains threaten to plunge the West African nation into crisis.

More than 680,000 people and thousands of homes, livestock and hectares of farmland have been affected by the worst floods in Benin in decades, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Wednesday.

More than 50 people have been killed, and more than 105,000 have lost their homes since downpours twice as heavy as usual battered the West African country in mid-September. About 128,000 hectares of farmland have been ruined, and 12,000 metric tons of food stock have been lost in Benin, where an estimated one million people were already suffering from food insecurity before the floods.

With rains expected to continue through November, the Government of Benin and aid agencies launched on Wednesday a joint Emergency Humanitarian Action Plan, asking the international community to provide more than $46 million for emergency assistance.

“Like much of the region, Benin was experiencing a nutrition and food security crisis before the floods hit,” said Valerie Amos, OCHA under-secretary-general and emergency relief coordinator. “The loss of homes, livestock, clothing, agricultural tools and seeds will have devastating and long-lasting effects for many people, and that is why, with the Government of Benin, we have launched this appeal for urgent assistance.”

More than two thirds of the country has been affected, according to the humanitarian agency CARE International. In communities along rivers and lakes, thousands of people have been living for weeks in fragile huts, which are under up to two meters of water.

There are also growing concerns about sanitation, with more than 800 reported cases of cholera, resulting in seven deaths so far, according to CARE. Benin, one of the poorest countries in the world, traditionally struggles to provide adequate health service.

CARE has been distributing food, water purification tablets, soap mosquito nets, and other supplies and services in the affected areas. The U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), the U.N., the World Food Programme, Plan International, the Benin Red Cross and the Japan International Cooperation Agency have also dispatched emergency supplies.

Despite the relief efforts, the crisis has barely registered around the world, according to CARE.

“All the elders agree they have never seen such flooding,” said Rotimy Djossaya, country director of CARE Benin. “Yet, the information has not resonated in the international community. It seems that despite the extraordinary devastation caused by this year’s floods, people think it is simply the annual flooding season.”

Benin is hit annually by heavy rains and floods, but this year the rainfall was more than two times heavier compared to the same period in 2009.

Although Benin has suffered the worst, more than 1.6 million people across West Africa have been affected by torrential rains this year, DFID said.

Sources: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Guardian, The Japan International Cooperation Agency, Voice of America, CARE International

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