UN needs $6 million for urgent post-flood recovery

Two and a half months after nationwide flooding in Burkina Faso, humanitarian needs requiring an “urgent response” remain, according to the UN, which is appealing for nearly US$6 million for those affected.

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In its funding appeal launched on 26 October the UN says that while food-related needs have been met in Burkina Faso – one of the world’s poorest countries – more action is needed to “reduce the growing potential for a large-scale humanitarian crisis resulting from the continued and rapid degradation of living conditions of affected populations”.

As of 10 October, the government estimated that floods had affected close to 93,000 people, of whom 28,000 are displaced. The strong and persistent rains killed at least 51 people, wounded 76 others, and destroyed nearly 9,000 homes and 2,344 granaries, according to the government. The numbers have risen in recent weeks, as access to areas once cut off has allowed the government to do a more thorough damage assessment.

“Several weeks into the response, joint evaluation missions revealed that despite ongoing efforts to cover immediate emergency needs, there were still additional humanitarian needs requiring an urgent response,” UN appeal document says.

The funds will allow UN agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the Burkina Faso Red Cross to provide assistance in health, emergency education, water and sanitation, rehabilitation of homes and reconstruction, the appeal says.

“This will be a complementary intervention to what the government and NGOs have already done,” Felix Sanfo, humanitarian affairs officer at the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Burkina Faso, told IRIN.

Burkina Faso was one of the countries hardest-hit by flooding in West Africa this year, with all 13 regions affected. According to government figures, 50 bridges have been damaged and 17,698 hectares of crops flooded, causing an estimated loss to expected production of 13,268 tonnes.

The government, which has already spent more than US$1 million of its limited resources on flood response, has called for international assistance.

Agriculture

While the UN considers food distribution to have been sufficient, the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization need funds to assist 9,000 families to rebuild their livelihoods.

“The destruction in terms of household food stocks, crops and livelihoods have severely and suddenly reduced the ability of already vulnerable households to provide for themselves, catapulting entire communities into severe malnutrition and food insecurity,” the appeal document says.

According to the UN, Burkina Faso already had record malnutrition rates, with one in five children severely malnourished. “The flooding has only exacerbated this situation.”

“We fear the impact of bad harvests,” said Romain Guigma, head of the emergency response department at the Burkina Faso Red Cross. “Not only will [people] lack food, but also revenues because the harvest is the only source of income that is used to pay for school fees, medicine and clothes.”

Health

Nearly one third of the money requested is destined for the World Health Organization (WHO), which plans to improve access to potable water, distribute mosquito nets and supply medicines in an attempt to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases.

“Health workers in the flooded areas have reported a significant increase in the number of malaria and diarrhoea cases, as well as the proliferation of mosquitoes, the contamination of water sources and insufficient sanitary conditions,” according to the UN document.

WHO will also provide care for those with acute respiratory diseases which arise in the dry season. Meningitis epidemics break out annually in Burkina Faso, and last year 1,663 people died from the disease. WHO has warned that the end of the rainy season this year may bring Africa the worst meningitis outbreak in a decade.

Other funds are destined for the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) to provide affected households with more resistant shelter in more secure locations. Many Burkinabé live in houses made of baked mud in areas that are susceptible to flooding.

The appeal for funding will be updated regularly “to include real needs of the populations,” OCHA’s Sanfo said.

The UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund has already released US$878,000 to support household food security and child malnutrition.

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