In recent months many parts of the African continent have been hit by torrential rains. In recent years there has been an unprecedented increase of violence in this cyclical phenomenon in Africa. It causes heavy flooding and long-term impacts on the most vulnerable populations.
In July 2020, exceptionally large floods hit many parts of South Sudan. More than 368,000 people were then forced to leave their villages to settle in areas less affected by these extreme weather conditions, but where meeting basic needs were already difficult for the host populations.
Other African countries where we operate have not been spared. In Niger, nearly 549,000 people have been affected and several tens of thousands of hectares of crops have been washed away. 38,000 families were also affected in the central regions of Chad and the Lake Chad Basin. In the far north of Cameroon, sixty-four people have died as of 17 September 2020, and more than 130,000 have been affected since August. More than 26,000 hectares of crops have been damaged and 12,996 head of cattle have perished.
In the affected areas, the damage is considerable: water points and sanitation facilities have been destroyed, crops have been flooded, there have been outbreaks of violence, and there are high levels of stagnant water that can lead to epidemics.
REDUCING THE UPSTREAM RISKS IS ESSENTIAL
SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL teams, who are familiar with these areas of intervention and these climatic phenomena, yearly prepare to reduce the impact of these threats; they construct or refurbish the water access, sanitation and hygiene infrastructures. To do this, they put in place disaster risk reduction (DRR) programmes, working with the local populations on preparing for, preventing and mitigating potential impacts.
In Chad for example, the teams establish a humanitarian advance warning system for potential crises (major population displacements, cholera epidemics, floods, spread of Covid-19, etc.) and initiate needs assessments as soon as necessary in order to act as quickly as possible. These activities are adjusted to redirect aid towards where the need is most immediate. In Cameroon, teams pre-position contingency stocks, in addition to carrying out permanent humanitarian monitoring.
These mechanisms, aimed at preparing for and preventing natural disasters, have become essential in the current context where these crises are worsening from year to year.
EMERGENCY RESPONSES TO DEAL WITH IMMEDIATE NEEDS
Faced with the extent of the needs and in order to save lives, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL’s emergency teams must provide an immediate response.
In South Sudan for example, some flooded areas no longer have access to drinking water and latrines have been damaged. People are now forced to drink swamp water and are resorting to open defecation in the absence of functional sanitation facilities. Following rapid needs assessments, our teams intervene urgently to conduct community awareness sessions on hygiene, and distribute hygiene and sanitation kits as well as non-food items.
In Cameroon, affected families are also receiving essential household items, hygiene kits, emergency shelter kits and food aid coupons. Our teams are also working to refurbish the degraded water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) access infrastructure as quickly as possible.
Translated by George May