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Niger floods: Prevention is better than cure

15 Dec 2017


Hadiza's grandchildren sit outside her home, built of clay as the family does not have the means to rebuild a proper house. Credit: OCHA

When the rainy season comes each year, Hadiza Bambara is anxious. The 75-year-old woman, who has nine dependents, hasn’t forgotten the long rainy night when she and her family almost died when their home collapsed.

"I was alerted by my daughter's cries when a piece of earth fell from the roof and woke her up," Hadiza explained. "I jumped up in the middle of the night and immediately evacuated the house."

Hadiza lives in Nénégoungou, a village on an island on the Niger River, about 20 km from Niamey, the capital of Niger. Despite the risks related to the heavy seasonal rains, Hadiza's house was built of clay, which is not waterproof. Hadiza and her relatives now live in a makeshift shelter. "I don’t have the means to rebuild this house; the little savings I have and the help I receive serve me primarily to feed my family," she said. "My greatest wish is to have a weatherproof house where I could live in dignity with my family."

Hadiza is not the only one who lost everything. According to the Chief of Nénégoungou village, Marou Issoufou, floods have seriously affected the livelihoods of many inhabitants of the region: fields and pastures have been destroyed and farm animals were lost.

"Alas, if nothing is done to restrain the river’s waters, this situation will repeat itself next year," he said.

Tackling the source of the problem

This year, aid organizations provided emergency food, shelter and essential household items to more than 9,000 flood victims. But that is not enough, according to the OCHA Head of Office in Niger, Dieudonné Bamouni. For him, all partners—humanitarian and development actors—must redouble their efforts alongside the authorities to meet flood victims’ urgent needs and prevent disasters in a sustainable manner.

"A dollar invested in prevention equals ten dollars saved in the response. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure,” he said.

A view of Hadiza's house after the damage caused by the rains. Credit: OCHA

Why prevention is better than cure

A quarter of the people affected by this year’s torrential rains and floods from the Niger River (about 50,000 people) live in Niamey region.

The Government of Niger, with the support of its partners, is working to find sustainable solutions to recurring floods. As part of these efforts, it inaugurated a protective dike in Goudel, Niamey commune I, in early November. This structure should protect about 30,000 people from floods in several of the city’s neighbourhoods.

In April 2017, the Government also adopted a decree to ban construction in areas at high risk of flooding. However, to date, many families continue to live in these communities.

Idé Harouna, the Permanent Secretary of the National Disaster Prevention and Management System for the Niamey region, said that urgent measures must be taken to ensure the ban is applied. "This will allow the normal flow of water through appropriate channels and reduce the number of flood victims," he added.