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West, Central Africa Brace for More Floods

In West and Central Africa, where heavy flooding has left hundreds of thousands of people homeless and scores dead, meteorologists are forecasting more rain in the coming days. Humanitarian organizations say the rains are making life difficult in countries where infrastructure is already fragile and there are few safety nets in place to protect the poor. Kari Barber has more from VOA's West and Central Africa bureau in Dakar.

Flooding across West and Central Africa has left hundreds of thousands without homes and wiped out food crops and livestock.

The government of Ghana has declared parts of the country a disaster zone, and authorities there announced on Friday that the death toll from flooding in the north is continuing to rise.

In Togo, rains washed away thousands of homes, as well as bridges and schools, prompting the government to delay the start of the school year.

The head of the International Federation of the Red Cross for West and Central Africa, Alasan Senghore, says the situation is devastating. "Houses are completely destroyed. In most of these villages houses are built of mud. Of course they just disappear, no housing, nothing. And the water takes all of their belongings in the process, so they have to start over from scratch," he said.

Senghore says disasters, like floods, hit hardest in poor regions like West and Central Africa where people have nothing to fall back on if they lose their houses or become sick. "If you compare it to the U.K. or the United States where the governments have the capacity to support the people in such situations, it is not the same in Africa. Let us face the realities. Our governments try, we are here to support them, but the resources are just not there," he said.

Senghore has been doing humanitarian work for decades. He says the floods seem to be getting worse every year and the climate more unpredictable."Two years ago we were doing drought relief and now we are doing flood relief. So it is a complex situation," he said.

Lawrence Flint is a researcher for Dakar-based Environmental Development Action in the Third World, a non-governmental organization. He says the extremes in temperature could have roots in global warming. "People are having to cope with floods that are higher and bigger than they are used to, and people cope with periods of droughts that are bigger than they are used to. They cope with extremes of temperature - extremes of heat and extremes of cold. The weather is becoming unpredictable. It is the unpredictability aspect that is hitting people hardest," he said.

Humanitarian workers say preventing the outbreak of water-borne disease, such as cholera, is now a major concern. Cases have already been reported in Ghana.