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At a glance: Ghana

Families struggle to survive after devastating rains in northern Ghana

© UNICEF Ghana/2007
Already at-risk children are even more vulnerable since the recent devastating rains in Ghana's Northern Region.

By Katerine Brisebois

TAMALE, Ghana, 24 September 2007 – Abadegsahwie holds tight to her children these days. She nearly lost her whole family last month when devastating rains flooded parts of the Ghana's Northern Region, killing at least 30 people.

“Every time it rains I get afraid that the house will collapse, so we all sleep outside in the shed reserved for the animals,” said the mother of four.

When the rains hit, Abadegsahwie, along with her husband and small children, sought refuge on a rock for three days. When the family finally returned to their modest, two-room mud home, they discovered their entire food stock had been washed away.

“We have lost all our early harvest of millet,” said Abadegsahwie. “This was our only food for the next six months. We don’t have anything to eat now.”

Serious food shortages

Almost all the residents of the Builsa District rely on farming as their main source of income. Abadegsahwie’s family harvests millet, beans and rice to sell at the market, in addition to the fish that her husband brings home.

Food shortages are a major concern in the flood-affected regions of Ghana. Most of the early crops of maize and millet were devastated this summer due to dry weather. Adding to these existing problems, the recent rains flooded a large proportion of farmland. Farmers have had to rely on stored food supplies, which are now vanishing quickly.

“Some people have gone from two meals a day to one meal a day,” said United Nations Disaster Assessment Coordination Team member Pascal Michaud. “In some areas, prices of maize and millet have doubled compared to the same period last year.”

© UNDAC/2007
Many crops were devastated earlier this summer, and the recent rains have flooded more farmland, causing serious food shortages.

Schools destroyed, education threatened

In two districts alone – West Mamprusi and Builsa – 25 schools have collapsed in the floods, affecting approximately 3,500 children. Some of the schools are located in areas which are still inaccessible by road. UNICEF Ghana has quickly responded to the situation by providing School-in-a-Box and recreation kits to the schools.

As a result of increasing poverty, families may find themselves unable to afford books and other school materials, and children's education may suffer further.

“There is also a risk that siblings would want to migrate to find employment, leaving house work for the younger ones and depriving them of going to school,” said UNICEF Ghana Education Chief Peter de Vries.

Immediate emergency response

Last week, an assessment team composed of government authorities, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations visited flood-affected areas. Team members travelled by helicopters provided by the Government of France in order to get an aerial view and meet with communities in areas that are inaccessible by road.

As an immediate response, UNICEF, in partnership with local authorities, provided vital relief supplies such has hygiene kits, water-purification tablets and blankets. UNICEF Ghana has delivered 18,600 bednets to prevent malaria, with plans to provide more.

“People who were already vulnerable have become even more at-risk due to the effects of the flooding,” said UNICEF Representative in Ghana Dr. Yasmin Haque. Outbreaks of waterborne diseases and an increase in malaria cases are of immediate concern. The situation is particularly threatening for children and pregnant women.”



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