There is a humanitarian crisis looming in Niger.
The West African country, already experiencing instability as a result of violent attacks by Islamist terror groups, is now experiencing floods that have forced some 23,000 people to flee their homes since the beginning of October.
News agency AFP reports that abnormally heavy rainfall in the southeast region of the country has caused the Komadougou Yobe river to burst its banks, flooding villages and damaging farm lands.
AFP also reports that at least two villages near the city of Diffa have been “completely submerged”, forcing 2,500 households to flee. Around 400 of these families are being sheltered in a gym in Diffa.
Amadou Issa, a rice farmer, told AFP: “We have been fighting for days to stop the water rising, but it's not working. The sandbags we've been using to keep the water out are completely under water.”
Niger, which is one of the poorest countries in the world, has a history of extreme weather, including floods. The Floodlist reported in September that more than 40 people had died as a result of the flooding in Niger.
“Flooding has affected some areas of Niger since June to July, but have worsened over the last week,” it said on its website.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) in Niger, almost 70,000 people had been affected by September. The floods have destroyed homes, businesses, schools, farms, and livestock. ,
Meanwhile, at least 3,000 people were affected by flooding in January, when the Niger River flooded 11 villages in the western Tillaberi region.
In 2017, the UN-OCHA published a report on flooding in Niger, and its effects on communities.
The report told of the anxiety that comes with the rainy season, and the damage heavy rainfall leaves behind, especially on homes, fields, pastures and livestock.
Flooding also comes with the risk of a cholera outbreak, and the World Health Organization has urged the government and other partners to be on alert for an outbreak.
At the time of the 2017 floods, aid organisations provided emergency food, shelter, and supplies to more than 9,000 people. However, according to Dieudonné Bamouni, the UN-OCHA head of office in Niger, relief efforts were not enough.
He called on humanitarian and development agencies to work with the Nigerien government to come up with sustainable prevention plans.
“A dollar invested in prevention equals $10 saved in the response,” he said. “As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure.”