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Flooding in Niger Threatens Next Harvest

Flooding in Niger is devastating livestock and destroying crops, lowering expectations for the next harvest in a country where more than half the people do not have enough to eat.

Flash floods are making it harder to feed an already hungry population in Niger with thousands of people driven from their homes and off their fields by high water.

Modibo Traore heads the United Nation's humanitarian office in Niger.

"The country is facing floods almost everywhere in all regions of the country, including the capital city which is Niamey," said Traore. "Up to now we have more than 200,000 people who have been affected by the floods. All families are staying in the public infrastructure such as schools. And in the regard to the forthcoming school are resuming activities and this is causing serious concerns for all authorities."

Rains that began in June are expected to continue for at least another month.

"The rainfall is continuing almost throughout the country and we may expect much more victims of the flood," he said.

The River Niger has flooded fields of vegetables and rice in some of the country's most fertile areas. That is lowering expectations for the next harvest and increasing concerns among relief officials that this humanitarian crisis may last longer than initially thought.

Traore says heavy rains have already killed more than 100,000 cattle in a country dependent on subsistence agriculture. Dead animals can contaminate drinking water.

"Some areas have started burning dead bodies of animals or burying them. But we have to acknowledge that in some remote areas, nothing has been done so far because of problem of accessibility to those areas due to the rainy season," he added.

Traore says relief operations are shifting supplies in response to the flooding.

"We have to divert sometimes some food to address the urgent needs of people affected by floods. And one of the aspects is the middle term impact in term of the harvest. A lot of farms and gardens have been destroyed because of the flood and that will have an impact in terms of the upcoming harvest," said Traore.

Another below-average harvest means less food aid can be bought locally and farmers will continue to be unable to feed themselves.

The U.N. World Food Program hopes to help feed nearly eight-million people during the next five months with enriched feeding programs for almost one million malnourished children under the age of two.