By Baptiste Lecuyot, with Allassane Traoré and Laminou Amadou Chaïbou, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL
In recent years, many regions of Africa have been afflicted by particularly violent, torrential rains, which have devastated whole areas and affected hundreds of thousands of people. SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL provides affected populations with emergency relief and long-term assistance.
Torrential rains and flooding wash away crops and food stocks, decimate livestock, devastate homes and infrastructure, displace populations and increase food insecurity, making prospects even bleaker for affected countries like Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, or South Sudan. Floodwaters also contaminate water points and destroy sanitary installations, creating the conditions for epidemics to emerge and spread rapidly. Other significant consequences include severed social ties and disrupted schooling, since schools are often destroyed or a long way from temporary resettlement sites.
With resettlement comes another array of risks: overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and lack of access to basic services. Aissa Hima, who was affected by the 2020 summer floods in Niger told us: “The government asked us to move into schools [editor’s note: schools were closed for the summer break]. There were 3000 families in one school. The latrines didn’t work properly, there were mosquitoes. I got sick. We stayed there for two months. When the school term started on 15 October, we were moved to the Hippodrome site.”
PROVIDING EMERGENCY RELIEF AND LONG-TERM ASSISTANCE
SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL is already active in most of the countries stricken by these disasters and can therefore rapidly respond to the population’s emergency needs. In Niger, the NGO has implemented “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene” activities to reduce the risks of waterborne diseases and epidemics. Our teams provided the affected population with drinking water, distributed hygiene kits, and assisted with waste management and latrine emptying at temporary resettlement sites.
Emergency support can also include distributing food and/or food vouchers, shelters and essential household items (mosquito nets, mattresses, clothing, etc.).
The NGO also carries out long-term activities to ensure that populations retain access to these services over time. In Niamey, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL has built a small-scale water distribution network and installed a 50 m3 storage tank that is directly connected to the national water company (Société d’Exploitation des Eaux du Niger), in order to provide a continuous supply of drinking water. The success of projects like these hinges on close collaboration with local authorities and operating partners.
TAKING PROACTIVE STEPS TO MITIGATE RISKS
More frequent and violent rainfall events are a consequence of rising temperatures around the globe. Although global warming must not be seen as inevitable, its effects are nonetheless very real and require immediate mitigation and adaptation measures. To this end, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL is carrying out disaster risk reduction programs that enable our teams to work with affected populations to prepare for, prevent or mitigate potential impacts.
But although solutions do exist, their implementation is often a complex process. In South Sudan, which was devastated by flooding in October 2021, rising floodwaters have made it extremely difficult to access populations: SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL’s teams have to travel seven hours by canoe through tall vegetation to deliver water purification tablets to certain communities. In addition, there is a severe shortage of financial resources. In certain countries, funding available for humanitarian assistance decreases every year, while these same countries are increasingly affected by natural disasters. These extreme events undermine the health and livelihoods of populations that have often already suffered from multiple shocks; they are the on the front lines of climate disruptions that they have done very little to cause. Providing agencies and organizations with the capacity to sufficiently prepare for and effectively respond to climate hazards is essential to ensure fair, sustainable development.