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Lucie's story: A mother of two copes with life in flood-affected Benin

© UNICEF/2010/Asselin
Lucie Zannou examines the damage in her flooded home in in Cotonou, the capital of Benin. She and her children now sleep under a truck parked on dry land nearby.

COTONOU, Benin, 26 October 2010 – Lucie Zannou, 30, lives in Vossa, a small suburb of Cotonou that has been devastated by the recent floods in Benin. Leaning on her makeshift shelter – a dilapidated old truck – she describes the horrific situation she and her two young children face daily in the wake of the disaster. As she speaks, she rubs her belly, sadly revealing that she is seven months pregnant.

“The flood has destroyed my entire life, I have nowhere to go and sleep. I have lost all my belongings and all my crops, and have nothing to eat,” she states matter-of-factly.

Tragically, 680,000 people in Benin are dealing with the same circumstances in flood-stricken areas. According to a UN disaster assessment report released last week, more than half of these victims are women.

Staying positive

Despite her desperate living conditions, Ms. Zannou remains positive and even manages to flash a bright smile as she speaks.

© UNICEF/2010/Asselin
Women wait to fill buckets and tubs with safe drinking water in Cotonou, Benin.

“As my house is flooded, my family is separated,” she says softly. “I sleep every night under a truck with my two children. We lay our mat on the floor, and every morning before 5 o’clock, I wake up to get water from the pump when people are still sleeping. We can at least wash ourselves and be clean.”
Unable to find space with his family, her husband has to find his own place to sleep.

Along with dozens of other women, Ms. Zannou must fetch much-needed potable water for her family. “In the area where I live now, only one water point is available,” she explains. “The fire brigade has also distributed potable water, as the wells are contaminated. In addition, we have learned how to use purification tablets. As a pregnant woman, I also got a mosquito bed net from the heath unit.”

Relief effort

In Benin, the government distributes a bed net to every pregnant woman in order to prevent the spread of malaria – the main killer of children in the country. UNICEF is also providing bed nets, along with potable water, purification tablets, water tanks and containers, Plumpy’nut ready-to-eat therapeutic food, therapeutic milk, latrine backs and school kits.

Other UN agencies are playing a vital role in the relief effort by providing food, shelter and health kits. At the same time, the Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services, Caritas, Plan International and Care International are helping to ensure the distribution of food and non-food items among the population.



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