West, Central African floods kill 377; situation in Benin especially worrying, U.N. says

Floods in west and central Africa have killed 377 people and affected almost 1.5 million people since the start of the rainy season in June, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said on Tuesday, Agence France-Presse reports.

"2010 has seen the largest number of people affected and dying from flooding," OCHA said in a statement. "The highest [death] toll was in Nigeria with 118, followed by Ghana (52), Sudan (50), Benin (43), Chad (24), Mauritania (21), Burkina Faso (16), Cameroon (13), Gambia (12), with other countries reporting less than 10 dead. Most people were affected in Benin (360,000), followed by Nigeria (300,000), Niger (226,611), Chad (150,000), Burkina Faso (105,481), Sudan (74,970) and Mauritania (50,815)," the news service writes (10/19).

The impact of flooding in Benin has been "underestimated," and there is growing concern about the humanitarian situation, according to a U.N. mission that has been surveying the situation in the country since the beginning of October, VOA News reports. Flood waters are covering two-thirds of the country, the U.N. said, adding that water-borne diseases could spread and worsen an existing cholera epidemic.

OCHA's Kemoral Jadjombaye, who is in Benin, said flooding is a recurring problem in the region, but that Benin has not experienced a flood on this scale since 1986. "He says nearly 280 schools were flooded and says flood waters also reached health centers, making them difficult for the population to reach. He says they are also concerned by the risk of food insecurity in the medium and the long-term due to flooded farmland," VOA News writes (Look, 10/19).

On Tuesday, local authorities reported that 60 people had died and 120,000 had been forced to leave their homes, Reuters reports. Benin's Interior Ministry spokesman Franck Kinninvo said there were 800 cases of cholera in the country and seven people had died from the water- and food-borne disease (10/19).

"Rising floodwater in Chad's capital N'djamena - coming in the midst of a cholera outbreak - has engulfed household wells and toilets and displaced thousands of people, raising the threat of infection, according to [UNICEF]," IRIN reports in an article examining the response to the flooding in Chad. Aid groups in N'djamena are "running hygiene education campaigns and reinforcing water and sanitation facilities, but current conditions favour cholera's spread," according to the news service. OCHA said that 19 of Chad's 22 regions have been hit with floods and cholera outbreaks have been reported in six regions. The article includes accounts of the conditions on the ground from several aid workers, N'djamena's deputy mayor and a resident of the city (10/20).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


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