GENEVA - U.N. agencies are rushing to provide aid to tens of thousands of people affected by severe flooding in Niger. Floods caused by heavy rains, which began in June, have killed 57 people and affected 211,000.
Niger is facing multiple emergencies. The floods are just adding to the crises already stretching the capacity of the government and humanitarian agencies to respond.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports the situation took a dramatic turn for the worse the last week of August. That was when water levels of the Niger basin reached flood stage and overflow from dams in neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali contributed to the surging waters.
OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke says the last time the Niger basin reached this level was in 2012.
“At that time, the floods left dozens of dead and affected nearly half-a-million people… Each year, there has been an upward trend in how many people are affected by these seasonal rains. We have seen a doubling of the number of people affected since 2015, as well as increasing material damage including destruction of crops and loss of livestock,” Laerke said.
The hardest hit regions are Zinder, Maradi and Agadez. The U.N. reports more than 16,000 houses have been damaged, rendering tens of thousands of people homeless. The U.N. children’s fund says an estimated 123,000 children are directly affected by the floods.
Spokeswoman Marixie Mercado says children are the most vulnerable to respiratory infections, water-borne diseases and a host of other problems.
“The children in Niger face malnutrition, recurrent disease epidemics and outbreaks, cyclical floods, drought and displacement. This, of course, is exacerbated by the instability in neighboring countries. We have now an influx of thousands of refugees, returnees and migrants. All of whom are in need of basic social services for survival,” Mercado said.
The U.N. cites priority needs as shelter, non-food items, food, water, sanitation and hygiene supplies. Humanitarian agencies warn they are having difficulty meeting the urgent needs because of serious under-funding.
For instance, OCHA says it only has received 37 percent of its $383 million appeal. It says that is not enough to care for the 2.3 million people in need of aid in Niger, half of them children.