The International Federation of the Red Cross is preparing for what it says will be heavy rains in the region this year, particularly in Senegal, Gambia and Mauritania. One village in southern Senegal already reports losing dozens of homes and animals because of severe flooding in the past week.
In the Casamance region of southern Senegal, teacher Houssainatou Boiro says heavy rains that began last week have washed away her house as well as the rice and couscous she was storing to feed her children.
Boiro's village, Sinthiou Koundara, is one of the first in Senegal to report heavy damage as the rainy season in West Africa gets underway. Last year heavy rains that hit the region caused flooding that drove hundreds of thousands of residents from their homes says Moustapha Diallo.
Diallo is the communications officer for the International Federation of the Red Cross' West and Central Africa Bureau. "Last year more than 450,000 people were affected in 16 countries in West and Central Africa. And among them, Senegal and Burkina Faso were the most affected countries," he says, "In Senegal, more than 150,000 people were affected by flooding in the suburbs of Dakar and in many regions and villages of the country."
The Red Cross works with the African Center of Meteorological Application for Development to predict what the rainy season will bring this year.
Diallo says the rains are expected to be particularly heavy in Senegal, Gambia and Mauritania. He adds the Red Cross is preparing for the possible flooding by stocking up on supplies to distribute to families in the areas where heavy rains are predicted.
"In order to be able to provide immediate assistance to people affected by the floods and in Senegal and in Mauritania, besides the stock for 500 families, we have added a stock for 2,000 families. It's a stock including food items, emergency shelter, blankets, mosquito nets," Diallo said.
Diallo warns the flooding impact on the local population could be enormous.
In the Boiro's village of 500 residents, dozens of homes have already been washed away and livestock drowned in this year's rains. Many of the people who have no home left are living in the village's school, while others have nearby family members who are helping them recover.
Besides losing their homes, the Red Cross spokesman says victims also face increased exposure to water-borne diseases such as malaria.
More than 100 people were killed in West Africa last year due to flooding.