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Fresh disaster in West Africa as flooding compounds food crisis

Severe flooding across the Sahel region of West Africa has left hundreds of thousands of people without food and shelter, bringing fresh misery to communities already suffering their worst food crisis in decades.

Following several seasons of drought and failed harvests, which have caused ten million people to go hungry across the Sahel, torrential rains have now come to communities across Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali.

The storms, which began in July and have continued throughout August, were of such intensity that many of the communities have now seen their homes, livestock and food reserves washed away.

Up to 200,000 people have been left homeless in Niger where the river Niger burst its banks and all of the country’s eight regions have seen some form of flooding.

An estimated 85,000 people have been directly affected in Burkina Faso and thousands more are suffering in Mali.

In the worst-hit communities, homeless families are crowding into schools to take shelter.

Fields remain inundated with water containing the bodies of drowned livestock and as a result, villagers, already weakened through lack of food, are now at risk of diseases such as malaria and cholera. 

The floods have also dealt a major blow to the region’s prospects of emerging from the food crisis.

Cristina Ruiz, Christian Aid’s regional emergency manager for West Africa, said: 'We were hoping that a good rainy season would bring some relief to people across the Sahel, but the torrential rains have aggravated the lack of food for communities now and the prospects for the coming harvest season.

'The rising price of grain in the markets across the region is also compounding the problem. Imported food in the markets is already too expensive for those most in need and the current uncertainty in the global food market is likely to push prices higher still.

'Christian Aid and partners are working to alleviate suffering from the floods, meeting the immediate needs of families with food, blankets and other supplies as well as supporting those who lost their livelihoods and will not be able to harvest next season. Elsewhere in the region, we have created cash-for-work programmes to help the most affected people afford the food they need.”

The crisis is affecting communities across Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Mauritania. Caused by several seasons of poor harvests and drought, it has left millions of people without food and their animals without pasture.

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If you would like further information please contact Sarah Wilson on  +44 207 523 2277 or  swilson@christian-aid.org.  24 hour press duty phone – 07850 242950  

Notes to Editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in nearly 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the lives they deserve.

2. Christian Aid has a vision, an end to global poverty, and we believe that vision can become a reality. Our report, Poverty Over, explains what we believe needs to be done – and can be done – to end poverty.  Details at http://www.christianaid.org.uk/Images/poverty-over-report.pdf

3. Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of 100 churches and church-related organisations that work together inhumanitarian assistance and development.  Further details at http://www.actalliance.org

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5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit www.christianaid.org.uk