The United Nations reports the number of people affected by torrential rains and floods in West Africa has increased dramatically.   The United Nations estimates 600,000 people have been affected and around 160 killed.  Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger and Sierra Leone are among the most affected countries.

Unusually severe rains began falling on September 1 in Burkina Faso, depositing about one-quarter of the country's annual rainfall on the capital, Ouagadougou in just one day. 

The rains have caused widespread displacement, with an estimated 150,000 people affected.  U.N. Humanitarian Spokeswoman Elizabeth Byrs says about 48,000 people are living in schools, churches and other public buildings. 

She says the number of people staying with host families has significantly increased to at least 40,000.

Byrs says conditions in these shelters are extremely precarious.  She says the sanitary conditions are terrible.  There are not enough latrines or showers.  She says the shelters are overcrowded so men are sleeping outdoors to allow women and children to use the buildings.

She says non-food items, such as tents, cook sets, mosquito nets and blankets are in short supply. 

But Burkina Faso is not the only West African country struggling with the ravaging affects of the floods.  The United Nations reports 11 countries now are struggling to find accommodations, food, water and other essential items for their homeless populations.

The World Food Program is distributing food to flood-affected victims in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania.  WFP Spokeswoman Emilia Casella says 125,000 people in Ouagadougou will receive aid.

"These are people who are already receiving WFP food, actually they were receiving assistance through a voucher program that we had started earlier this year in support of these people and also of the market there," said Casella.  "That means they would receive a voucher, which they could use to purchase locally produced and local food on the market, thereby supporting the community market as well as receiving assistance with food.  Now all of these people, most of them have lost all the food that they received through the voucher program." 

Casella says the World Food Program is providing a one-month ration to these people and also is distributing food to homeless people in some of the shelters.

In addition, she says the U.N. agency is providing an initial two-week supply of food to 41,000 people in Niger.  She says they were left hungry and homeless after a dike near the northern town of Agadez burst its banks.

She notes the Mauritanian border town of Rosso, on the banks of the Senegal River, also has been lashed by heavy rains and devastated by floods.  She says the World Food Program is planning to distribute food to about 11,500 people there.