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Public Information Officer
Before joining WFP, Vigno Hounkanli worked for many years as a journalist in Africa.
Flooding during the rainy season affected hundreds of thousands of people in Niger. Many were displaced from their homes and took refuge in schools and public sheltered buildings. WFP launched cash transfers for the first time in Niamey to assist flood victims to buy locally available food.
“We were taken by surprise in the middle of the night when water started pouring into our rooms,” said Salamatou Gado. “We woke up and tried to save some belongings. The water was coming in at such a high flow rate that our house later collapsed.”
To most, Niger is known as a country of recurring droughts. But during July and August, heavy rainfall supplanted prolonged periods of drought.
As a result of the floods, nearly 37,000 houses have been destroyed. 81 people lost their lives and more than 500,000 are affected, mostly in areas along the Niger River.
Schools and community centers became safe-havens for displaced families. Overcrowding of these sites combined with poor sanitation conditions resulted in cases of cholera and the Government declared a state of natural disaster.
“I am currently living in a school classroom with my family. We are about 15 in one room. It is very embarrassing and uncomfortable. But the good news is that we have been looked after,” said Salamatou Gado.
Flooding in Niger exacerbated an already difficult situation.
The 2012 food crisis affected eight countries in the Sahel. Niger is the only country to have also experienced two previous food crises within the past decade, in 2005 and 2010.
The local populations in Niger have been scrambling to recover and rebuild their assets in between crises, resulting in chronic and structural fragility.
Under the leadership of the Government, the humanitarian community provided support to affected populations. The World Food Programme organized three airlifts to Niger with non-food items such as Jerry cans, blankets, plastic sheeting, mosquito nets and school kits. The emergency response was coordinated by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Initially, WFP advanced drought-related relief distributions to assist flood victims in Dosso and Tilaberri. But as heavy rainfall continued and flooding damage become more widespread, WFP worked with the Nigerien Red Cross to deliver targeted food distributions to people not covered under the emergency operation for the Sahel food crisis.
Niamey, the capital of Niger, was not as hard-hit by the floods. The city was overwhelmed with families who had lost their homes and were living in schools as temporary refuge.
Given that food is widely available on local markets in Niamey, WFP carried out cash transfers to displaced families. This is the first time that cash transfers have been used in Niamey.
“This money comes at the right time. Since we were living in a school compound, our life is miserable. Now I can give my children a proper meal,” said Salamatou Gado who is a recipient of WFP cash transfers in Niamey.
Salamatou Gado is worried about her rice paddy that was destroyed by the heavy rains.
“All the rice I was growing is gone. It is the most difficult aspect of the situation right now because I will not have anything to sell or to eat. I have to rely on handouts and it is worrying me,” she added.
The Niger Government relocated many of the victims previously living in classrooms to other safe areas to allow a smooth start of the school year.