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Niger starts to repair schools and homes damaged by flooding

As parts of England and Wales begin clearing up after the most intense September storm in three decades, people in Niger are also trying to get back to normal after the worst flooding to hit the West African nation for nearly a century.

Heavy August downpours brought over 200 millimetres of rain in twenty-four hours, an amount which is equivalent to half a normal year’s rainfall. Severe flooding from the River Niger affected the Tillabery region in the north, parts of the capital Niamey and the southern region of Dosso. An estimated half a million people were displaced and over 80 lost their lives.

According to the United Nations, the Dosso region was the worst-affected, with over 10,000 homes damaged by the floodwaters, which also wreaked havoc to crops across 7,000 hectares of fields. Pledging emergency food for affected families, President Mahamadou Issou asked for more than one million dollars of aid money to help flood survivors. International governments and aid agencies were also swift to respond with food packages and other emergency items.

Now, attention is turning to the repair of damaged buildings. More than one million dollars has been granted by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to rehabilitate damaged health centres. But there has been no targeted funding for schools, even though thousands have been affected by the flooding. Schools are scheduled to re-open at the end of this month. However, with so much clearing-up and damage to repair, there is not enough time to get all the schools ready. Speaking to IRIN, Oxfam’s education coordinator admitted “there is lots of work to do”.

A few schools also remain occupied by refugees, though most of the 80 or so schools which were used for emergency shelter have been vacated. The displaced have been given cash vouchers, basic supplies and encouragement to stay with other families. The Nigerien government has also announced that there will be a relocation of families in the coming months, saying that it was no longer acceptable for families to settle along floodplains of the River Niger. However, at this stage it’s unclear what assistance will be given for people to build new homes. And some families are refusing to leave schools or other community shelters until they know where they will be moving. Nevertheless, the government seems determined to designate more appropriate locations for resettling families and is looking to its many international partners to help with funding the country’s recovery.

Laurinda Luffman signature