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Niger: Floods leave hundreds of families homeless and increased risk of disease

29 Aug 2016

In early August heavy rains in the Tahoua district of Niger turned to severe flooding, killing one person, washing away over five hundred houses and leaving 1,940 households in a dire situation.  Many homeless families have been left sheltering in public buildings, some in need of medical attention, and most wondering how they will be able to deal with the future. 

While the local authorities have responded, the sheer scale of the floods has left over 11,000 people vulnerable and some humanitarian organisations overwhelmed.  The risks of communicable diseases like malaria, diarrhea, respiratory ailments as well as malnutrition are real and need to be addressed. Médecins Sans Frontières decided that it had the capacity and was best placed to intervene in the town of Abalack and village of Kiara. “We see that the families in this area who are already have very little, have now lost everything. Despite the presence of government health facilities, many parents do not have the money for treatment for such illnesses as respiratory infections, diarrhea and skin diseases” explains Adolphe Masudi, Médecins Sans Frontières project manager for this intervention. 

"We are also providing mental health support for a widely traumatised population and strengthening our surveillance of outbreaks"

“Médecins Sans Frontières has put a mobile clinic into the field where treatment is free and we can conduct hygiene promotion activities.  We are also providing mental health support for a widely traumatised population and strengthening our surveillance of outbreaks.  Five hundred Non Food Item kits (NFI), which include domestic utensils, blankets, mosquito nets and hygiene kits, were also handed out to families that lost their homes.”  In the village of Kiara most of the destitute families are sheltering in the three classrooms of the community school. Situations were squalid and one of Médecins Sans Frontières’ first tasks was to dig basic, working latrines to stop the spread of any waterborne diseases.  

If the sanitary conditions do not improve and the management of decomposing animal carcasses killed in the floods is not undertaken, disease could spread quickly. This is a crisis the community will find hard to contain under the current circumstances. For those that have lost livestock or lost their harvest it is unknown how they will get back on their feet. In this part of the country this is the only way of saving and ensuring that one’s family has access to food.