BURKINA FASO: Local leaders say flood-hit residents will need food aid for months

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Thousands of people in western Burkina Faso will need food aid for months to come, after floods wiped out homes and farms and now a lack of rain threatens whatever crops survived the deluge.

“Some displaced persons need to be assisted till June because the farms are flooded and the terrible drought we are having now will make things worse,” Alain Galbone, the prefect in Bama, told IRIN.

The town, 20km west of Burkina’s second largest city Bobo-Dioulasso, was one of the worst hit by flooding, when 165 millimetres of rain fell in 24 hours on 28 and 29 July.

Of the 6,000 people initially displaced by the floods in Bama, about 2,000 people depend on meals provided by the government at eight sites set up for flood victims, according to Galbone. Bama has received cereals from the government emergency foodstocks as well as from a number of private entities and non-governmental organisations.

Galbone said for the moment there is not enough food aid to allow for distributions to all of the affected families, so the local authorities provide meals three times a day, targeting primarily women and children.

To date the government has received 96 tonnes of cereal, half of which has been used. Local officials say at least 1,500 tonnes will be needed to help people for the next several months.

As of 3 October the same area had gone three weeks without rain. Local officials told IRIN they fear this will prolong people’s food shortages.

School meals

Local authorities are also calling for increased food aid for local schools to provide meals to more children.

Just as the school year gets underway in Burkina families in Bama are struggling with how to pay for enough food, much less school supplies.

“We call for a special treatment for Bama this year so that all children can eat at schools,” said Harouna Gouem, provincial director of basic education and literacy of the Houet region, which includes Bama. “Because when the parents can hardly feed their offspring, we cannot expect the children to perform well because they are hungry.”

Catholic Relief Services/CATHWELL provides food for school canteens in western Burkina Faso, based on government lists. Local officials said they will ask for more numbers to be included for school feeding.

Classrooms are finally clearing out in Bama as flood-displaced families are moving out of schools and other public buildings and into tents, after Morocco donated 400 tents to Burkina last month.

Worst in decades

Bama residents told IRIN the recent floods were the worst in recent memory.

“I was sleeping with my family when I heard the waters entering through the windows,” Lassina Sanou, father of eight, told IRIN. He said it cost him 300,000 CFA francs (US$645) to build his mud house; now it’s gone and he lives in a makeshift shelter. He lost his crops and cattle to the floods.

“I have to start from nothing again. I will have to come up with money and it will take years.”

Source: IRIN