At a glance: Niger

Floods devastate Agadez region of northern Niger with lingering effects

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Niger/2009/Holtz
UNICEF has set up water bladders and taps at one of the sites sheltering the flood-affected population in northern Niger, as well as water distribution systems at other camps.

By Sandra Bisin

AGADEZ, Niger, 25 September 2009 – Unprecedented rainfall has led to severe flooding in northern Niger's Agadez region in recent weeks.

"We had never seen such floods," said Tahrit Adam, 70, who is staying at one of the schools where area residents have temporarily relocated. She is one of the 80,000 people who have been affected by the floods.

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"It happened all of a sudden in the middle of the night," said Fadima Ahmed, 30, a mother of four who was forced out of her home."Water came into my house like a torrent. In a few seconds, I had it up to my waist. I thought we were going to die. We have lost everything."

Water and sanitation facilities

While many families have found shelter with relatives, 11 sites are operating as shelters for the flood-affected population. Among these are five primary schools and one secondary school.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Niger/2009/Holtz
Fadima Ahmed lost her home and all her belongings due to the early September floods that have affected Agadez in northern Niger.

Four new sites have also been identified. The Government of Niger, UNICEF and other partners are equipping them with water and sanitation facilities, as well as shelters.

In order to provide safe water in the flood zone, UNICEF has installed two water tanks at one site and is setting up water systems at four more camps.

Preventing epidemics

The raging waters destroyed the dyke protecting the town of Agadez, flooding entire sectors and prompting the government to call for international assistance on 11 September.

While no epidemics have thus far been reported, cases of diarrhoeal disease and malaria are on the rise. Thousands of children under the age of five are particularly at risk of contracting infectious diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation.

In response, UNICEF is now coordinating with the government, United Nations agencies and other partners to see that children and women receive access to basic services.

"It is UNICEF's priority to ensure that essential services are available at the sites for affected people, in line with its core commitments for children in emergencies. This includes access to basic health, nutrition, potable water and sanitation, education, protection and psycho-social support," said UNICEF Representative in Niger Akhil Iyer.

The organization is also working on disseminating life-saving messages on good health and hygiene practices.

Distribution of vital supplies

In addition, UNICEF has distributed over 1,500 family kits with essential relief items for the affected population. Each kit contains two mosquito nets, two blankets, two floor mats, ten bars of soap, two sheets of tarpaulin, two jerry cans, two buckets, one basin and one cooking set. 

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Niger/2009/Holtz
A girl helps her mother carry a family kit received at one of the sites sheltering thousands affected by floods in Niger.

"I am glad I have received my own mats and cooking utensils, as we had to share them with five other families before," said Fatima Amadou, 25, a mother of five. "In the kit I have received, there were also two mosquito nets. We suffered a lot from mosquito bites over the past two weeks.

"Thank God, we have not had any case of malaria," she added. "I feel relieved that my children will be able to sleep under the bed net."

Child-friendly spaces

Although the floods have receded, ponds and stagnant water are still ideal breeding spots for mosquitoes in Agadez. As a result, malaria still presents a significant threat in the area.

In the coming weeks, UNICEF plans to organize a measles vaccination campaign, along with vitamin A supplementation, for flood-affected children from nine months to 15 years of age. UNICEF will also focus on identifying malnourished children and setting up child-friendly spaces to provide psycho-social support and recreational activities for the youngest victims of the flood crisis.


 

 

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17 September 2009: UNICEF correspondent Natacha Ikoli reports on efforts to assist children and families affected by flooding in Agadez, northern Niger.
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