Nearly 20,000 people have been affected this week by heavy rains and flooding in and around Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou. More than 3,700 are now homeless, their houses reduced to piles of mud and debris.
Making matters worse, more than 64 tonnes of cereal harvests and livestock were carried away by the floods, local officials say. Many parts of Ouagadougou and Bama, a commune in the west of the country, remain under water, days after the rains have slowed.
“Everyone has lost their food reserves, their farms and are now in need of assistance,” said Aboubacar Mlougou, a representative of the National Council for Emerganecy Aid and Rehabilitation (CONASUR). “Without aid, they will be forced to sell whatever items survived the floods, such as cars, ploughs, and wheelbarrows, in order to survive.”
He said the biggest needs, in addition to shelter, are food, medications and potable drinking water, as well as mosquito nets, as malaria and other diseases are rife with standing water. Mobile latrines are also a priority, as the worst-affected areas are “non-planned” areas of the city where there is no proper sewage system.
The government says that income-generating activities will also need to be implanted, as many Burkinabe have now lost not only their places of business, but also their means of agricultural production.
“A request for support has been sent to all humanitarian partners to ask them to mobilise whatever they have,” Ibrahima Barry, head of the UN’s emergency aid coordination body, OCHA, in Burkina Faso, told IRIN. “We need to mobilise resources immediately to save lives.
Preparing for the worst
The government, based on recent damage assessments as well as future weather forecasts, which predict even more rain in the coming weeks, says it will need approximately 18 billion CFA [US $30 million] to meet the needs of more than 122,000 people, who they say will be affected by heavy rains, including 36,000 without homes.
The money will be used to distribute 18 tonnes of cereal food aid across 13 regions, as part of emergency response, as well as tents, blankets and cooking items.
OCHA says plans are also under way to set up a nationwide action plan to help the country better mitigate the impacts of climate change, including heavier rains, as soon as it has assessed Burkina Faso’s capacity for disaster reduction.
“We have been able to target some of the weaknesses of the country, and the action plan will help after it is adopted,” Barry said.
According to the Red Cross, teams have been trained and set up in each of the 45 provinces of the country and non-food items have been deployed throughout Ouagadougou and Bobo Dioulasso, in the southwest.
“There is special mobilisation this year because we expect to intervene and save lives,” said Noufou Guire, head of the Red Cross’s Disater Response Prepaartion Unit in Ouagadougou. “We have prepared a response plan and asked for extra non-food items and food.”
Following last week’s heavy rains, the government issued a warning to people to stay away from known flooding areas and has deployed teams to inform the public in high-risk areas of future flooding, and to evacuate some communities.