Mali: Neighbourhoods emptied by rising flood waters

19 Sep 2013

August 2013, Segou, Mali: A family recovers some items from their flooded home in central Mali. Heavy rains in August displaced more than 10,000 people, with many still living in temporary shelters. Credit: OCHA/Diakridia Dembele
Thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes by flooding in and around the central Malian city of Segou in August. Many are still living in temporary shelters more than a month later.

Heavy rains in Ségou in central Mali forced thousands of people to flee their homes in August, with entire neighbourhoods emptying as families searched for refuge. More than 175 homes were destroyed and hundreds of people are still living in temporary shelters.

“I have been living for more than 30 years in Bozo Doga neighbourhood and this is the first time I have witnessed floods of this scale,” said Nana Tapo, one of the evacuees who found refuge in a school. “I have been living in this classroom for fourteen days, with my husband, my nine children and nine other people, including my grandchildren.”

Nana Tapo are still living in the school, more than a month after first seeking refuge there.

In all, about 10,700 people living in and around the city of Segou were affected by the floods that were triggered by heavy rains between 9 and 12 August. Malick Ouédraogo, the head of Bozo Doga neighbourhood says that people still need a lot of support. “It is a duty for families to share their meagre resources with those who lost everything,” he said.

“(But) it is even more worrying that people from this neighbourhood have not yet recovered from last year’s poor agricultural season. We urgently need food supplies, mats and mosquito nets.”

In the nearby Bloc 40 neighbourhood, about 300 people sought shelter in 15 overcrowded classrooms at their local school. In addition to their homes, these families also lost 50 hectares of rice and onions. They have received some supplies - mosquito nets, mats, tarpaulins, food and kitchen utensils - from local authorities and individuals, as well as from the French NGO ACTED and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“The current level of assistance is not sufficient to cover the needs of all flood victims but we have made sure that every person received at least something,” said Demba Coulibaly, the head of Falada neighbourhood, who is in charge of looking after people at the school.

Longer-term concerns

All affected neighbourhoods and areas sit alongside the Niger river. People who live there cultivate rice and rely on fishing as a source of income. However, many of their boats, nets and other supplies were carried away in the floods.

“We need additional food supplies but also support to resume fishing and other activities that generate income,” said Salimata Sanogo, a 50 year old mother of four.

There are also growing concerns about sanitation, since many water sources were exposed to contamination. On top of this, schools are scheduled to re-open for students in October after three months of holidays.

‘’My main worry is the precarious hygiene conditions that could lead to an increased risk of disease,” said Maky Bah, the mayor of the rural neighbourhood of Sirifini Boundy, one of the flooded neighbourhoods.

“I call on everybody to assist us in increasing risk awareness among communities, to make sure that they have the necessary support to quickly improve sanitation conditions. Despite the help provided, needs are still huge. We need more food supplies and more mosquito nets.”

OCHA is monitoring the situation together with the authorities and humanitarian agencies in Ségou, and is part of the national floods working group established by the government. OCHA, in collaboration with the National Directorate of Civil Protection, is providing humanitarian actors and their partners with consolidated information on the scale of the needs and the importance of quickly mobilizing resources to help people in need.