Flash floods in North Cameroon meet fast response from UNICEF Cameroon
From drought to flash floods! From lack of nutritional food to excessive inflow of water! Northern Cameroon seems to be facing the wrath of climate change like no other region in the country. Suddenly an area already reeling from a nutritional emergency and the onslaught of cholera, northern Cameroon is now facing a third emergency—the flood and the realities of immediate impact and aftermath. Exceptionally high rainfall on August 24 and earlier left rivers flooding their banks and dams such as Lagdo exceeding their “red” high-water alarm levels. The urgent release of water from the dam on August 26 had a devastating effect on people living in low lying areas near Benue River in the three districts of the North (Mayo Rey, Benue, Faro).
On the same evening, a joint UNICEF and Ministry of Basic Education team, already in the North Region monitoring an education program targeting children affected by the Sahel nutritional crisis, immediately changed course to respond to the crisis at hand. Ms. Martha Beck, Education Specialist was at the scene to give first hand report. According to her, “We saw the immediate impact of the floods on the lives of people this weekend in the North. Schools getting prepared for next week’s “back to school” day (September 3rd, 2012) instead became homes to displaced and distraught families, and their belongings of cows, sheep and furniture.”
Other schools were abandoned as water inundated the premises and carried away debris including desk, chairs, and school latrines. Minister Hadidja Alim Youssouf, the Minister of Basic Education, immediately responded to the crisis by flying to the flood hit areas and personally visiting schools and reassuring families and children whilst also providing them with immediate basic rations.
The first requests received from the Education Ministry and later confirmed by joint visits with UNICEF team in the North region presented a dire situation for 7,164 children without schools to attend, and over 18,000 displaced children and their families. 11 schools were flooded and unusable. Five of them were flooded but also occupied by displaced families. Water brought a threat of cholera, malaria and dengue. An update of the deteriorating situation in the Extreme North arrived over the weekend indicating 18 additional primary schools and one kindergarten as inundated by the flood and tornado, leaving thousands of children and family members without houses or schools to attend.
UNICEF immediately deployed the services of education specialist, driver and car from Bertoua office to the North and coordinated emergency distribution of education supplies worth USD 50,000. In 48 hours supplies consisting of Schools in a Box kits, Hygiene kits, Recreational kits, Early Childhood Education kits, Slates, Bags, Exercise books, Mats, Water jugs and Toilet paper were on their way to the affected region to be made available to the Ministry of Basic Education’s regional education teams. UNICEF is also coordinating with the MINEDUB to deploy a team to the field to undertake rapid assessments of affected schools in both regions.
The Ministry of Basic Education is appreciative of quick support received from UNICEF. The field office team in Maroua and the rapid response team set up in Garoua sent from Country Office in partnership with the UN team continue to provide all possible help and are ready for the challenge.
From Vikas Verma with field reports from Ms. Vijitha Eyango – Chief Education and Mr. Iker De Urrutia – HPM Emergencies.