UN assists flood victims in Ouagadougou

10 Sep 2009

“Early in the morning, water began to pour into my house and it quickly rose to my knees. The house collapsed and we lost everything we had. Now, we have nowhere to go” says Denise Dagano, one of the 150,000 people affected by the flood that struck the capital of Burkina Faso on 1 September.

Within a few hours, 26 cm (10 inches) of rain fell over Ouagadougou and left the city soaked in water. Even solid buildings like the central hospital could not resist the rain. Most poor people live in clay houses and the flooding is a disaster for them.

Flood victims are finding refuge in over 110 centers in Ouagadougou, mainly public schools that are still closed for the holidays. From a distance these places look like busy African markets, crowded with people, however here there is nothing to buy. People walk restlessly around or sit on the ground looking after their few belongings while waiting for the next distribution of food.

"Till now, we have only had one meal a day. Of course, it is insufficient", says Souleman Saoura.

He stays at the camp with his wife and their nine children, the youngest only one month old. The family sleeps under open air just a few meters from a busy asphalt road. He says that they need everything; clothes, shoes, food, mattresses and above all a new home.

The United Nations System in Burkina Faso has taken strong measures to help the flood victims. The main difficulty is to obtain a proper needs assessment. Therefore, UNDP has allocated USD 50,000 to assess the needs and to coordinate the interventions.

The World Food Programme distributes food on a daily basis to 150,000 people. The flood victims live under poor hygiene conditions and the World Health Organization has made disinfection products and medicine available in order to prevent an outbreak of cholera. UNICEF and UNFPA are also contributing; the latter will distribute 500 “dignity kits” to women in need. A team from the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination recently arrived in Ouagadougou to help the government manage the disaster.

The UN Resident Coordinator has also initiated a dialogue with humanitarian partners, multi- and bilateral donors in order to quickly launch necessary actions that can ease the suffering among the flood victims.

With the start of the new school year on 1 October, the UN will work with the government to find relocation areas.