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Health risk to children in Benin floods

Children hit by Benin's worst floods for half a century now face a growing risk of disease, aid workers warn.

More than 50 people have been killed, and 100,000 left homeless after heavy rains and overflowing rivers wreaked havoc across two thirds of the country.

As many as 700,000 people have been caught up in the chaos and among those fleeing are 65,000 children under the age of five.

"The health of children has started to deteriorate," said Bell'Aube Houinato from the children’s charity Plan International.

"There is a growing risk of child deaths from diarrhoea, respiratory and skin infections, undernourishment and malaria."

Hundreds of thousands of anti-mosquito bed nets are needed to guard against malaria as well as medicines and health workers trained to give them out. The UK's Department for International Development, UN, World Food Programme and Plan International are acting on the poverty-stricken west African country’s crisis, which has barely registered around the world.

"The situation has worsened day-after-day and the number of affected and injured people, especially children, has increased," added Mr Houinato.

"Owing to poverty and precarious living conditions, a rather ordinary life event such as rain has turned their lives into a nightmare. Families have lost a full year of food crops together with their reserves and seeds.

"This will have consequences for subsequent years and increase people's vulnerability."

The flooding has sparked major health concerns, with drinking and bathing water contaminated by human waste, which has overflowed from latrines. The bacterial infection passes through contaminated water and can lead to dehydration and death.

Already, about 800 cases of cholera have been reported in what is said to be the worst flooding to hit the country - one of the poorest in the world - since 1963. The number of cases of cholera is rising daily, with more than 50 reported in the largest city, Cotonou, alone, according to the charity, Care.

"All the elders agree that they have never seen such flooding,” said Care’s Rotimy Djossaya. “Yet the information has not resonated in the international community,” she told the Guardian newspaper. “It seems that despite the extraordinary devastation caused by this year's floods, people think it is simply the annual flooding season."

The United Nations is gearing up to start an emergency airlift of 3,000 tents from Denmark to provide shelter for some of those left homeless.

Hayley attribution