BURKINA FASO: Flood devastation worsening

Monday, August 27, 2007

At least 23,000 people have been affected by unprecedented floods in Burkina Faso and more destroyed villages are still being reported daily as heavy rain continues to lash the country, the government’s top crisis management expert warned on 24 August.

“We are still trying to have a full assessment of the victims, but there are new cases arriving daily,” Amade Belem, the permanent secretary of the national council for emergency aid told IRIN. “There are new cases arriving from Banwa province [in the west] and today from Po [the capital of Nahouri province in the south].” In Banwa, as of 24 August flooding had displaced 5,499 people and destroyed 1,879 hectares of crops, according to Belem. Other provinces known to have been affected are mostly in the centre and north of the country.

According to Belem, the latest government figures show floods have killed 14 people in Burkina Faso. Most of the deaths happened in Nahouri province, following heavy rains on 10, 17 and 20 August. Some 270 hectares of crops have been destroyed in the area, according to local government officials, and 1,900 people have been recorded as displaced in the province. Assessors have not been able to access some areas in the province. Tiebele, a department in Nahouri province, is believed to have been badly affected but authorities have been unable to reach it.

“Our main concern today is the occupation of schools by the victims. They must leave before classes resume. The problem is to re-accommodate them but we do not know with what or where,” Belem said, calling for at least 400 tents to be distributed urgently in addition to 1,500 he requested earlier this month. So far the army has handed out just 20 tents, and the Burkina Faso Red Cross eight. The government says it has also distributed 180 tonnes of cereals so far, and will be dispatching 300 other tonnes of cereals from its own intervention stock.

The overall situation is being complicated by the fallout of a clash between agriculturalists and pastoralists in the Zounweogo province earlier this month which displaced at least 2,000 people and left three dead, according to Belem. There are some 1,400 children among the displaced, who are scattered around six sites. The government says it is struggling to find shelters and cereals for the displaced people, as well as clothing.

UN agencies plan to conduct a needs assessment in Burkina Faso next week. Belem said the help will be welcome. “We do need some aid because the government is doing what it can but cannot meet all the medical, food, education and accommodation needs.”

The Burkina Faso Red Cross has already requested 40 million CFA francs (US$80,000) from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC), to assist 7,100 people in Nahouri province and the department of Bama in the west. “The scope of the situation is worsening with the continuing rains, and we need to start with these people who are in urgent need,” Romain Guigma of the Red Cross said. The money will be used to buy mosquito nets, bed sheets, mats, hygiene kits and cereals.

Source: IRIN