International aid agency Oxfam on Wednesday warned that devastating floods in Niger are affecting more than 500,000 people, most of whose basic needs are not being met. Floodwaters in Niamey and surrounding regions have unrelentingly risen since rains began in July, destroying thousands of houses and over 7,000 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.
"Although rain is needed, this year's excessive rains have destroyed thousands of houses and farmland, and families already struggling to survive have lost everything. These floods were the last thing the country needed," said Samuel Braimah, Country Director for Oxfam in Niger.
Earlier this year, drought across the broader Sahel region brought about a hunger crisis that continues to affect over 5.5 million people in Niger, and cholera has killed up to 96 people so far. Now, exceptionally high food prices, combined with the loss of crops to the floods, are diminishing Niger's capacity to overcome its challenge to feed its own population.
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," said Braimah.
In addition to the emergency assistance provided, a longer-term solution is needed for families to get back on their feet and avoid being flooded again in the future, pressing the need to support and enforce the government's existing mechanisms to deal with crises.