Saturday, September 15, 2007

Children victims of forgotten floods

Urgent action is needed to help more than 500,000 people hit by floods that have swept across West Africa during the last three months, the leading children's organisation Plan International said today.

Floods across West Africa have destroyed homes, crops and livestock. Photo: Burkina Faso Red Cross

Heavy rains since July has destroyed thousands of homes, drowned livestock and swept away huge swathes of crops on which the region depends, the agency said. Continuing rain is increasing the misery for already vulnerable children in one of the poorest regions of the world. Children are at particular risk of drowning and water-borne diseases as water levels rise.

The emergency in West Africa is the latest in a year which has already seen major flooding hit Britain, South Asia and the United States. Yet, unlike the others and despite the scale of the emergency, the floods in West Africa have attracted little international attention.

Plan is calling on humanitarian agencies and governments to implement a major and immediate relief programme. Food, clean water, shelter, medicines and anti-malarial nets are all vital if a humanitarian disaster is to be avoided.

Ghana has been worst hit with more than 250,000 people in affected areas at increased risk from diseases such as cholera, pneumonia and diarrhoea due to the pollution of their water supply. At least twenty people have died as a result of the floods.

Almost 30,000 people have been made homeless in Burkina Faso and in Benin, people are stuck in villages where the only available shelter are homes that have been badly damaged by flood waters and are in danger of collapse.
The other countries hit by the floods are: Cote d'Ivoire; Mali; Mauritania; Niger; Senegal; Sierra Leone; and Togo.