Flooding in Benin stokes fear of cholera deaths

 

BENIN IS at risk of a major cholera outbreak, an international aid agency warned yesterday, as the West African nation reeled from its worst flooding since 1963.

Fifty-five thousand homes have been destroyed or damaged, and 250,000 people left homeless by the flooding, leaving many susceptible to the water borne disease, said Care International.

“The latrines are flooded, so people are bathing, cooking and drinking with water that has human waste in it,” Helen Hawkins, a water and sanitation specialist with Care in Benin told The Irish Times.

“Some people have obviously stayed in their homes to protect their belongings but that means they are living in flooded homes surrounded by water. So there is quite a risk of a possible outbreak.” So far, 846 cases of cholera and seven deaths from the disease have been recorded.

Several months of heavy rain has engulfed two-thirds of the country, with 55 of Benin’s 77 municipalities affected by the flooding, said the United Nations. So far 56 people have been killed and 680,000 affected, as the UN began an emergency airlift of 3,500 tents and started distributing hygiene kits and mosquito nets to those worst hit.

In the past week, 360,000 litres of clean water have been issued to 20,000 people by UNICEF, which said that it has 2.7 million aquatab water purification tablets, enough to last the next month. It also had 89,000 bars of soap but said that 170,000 were needed.

Aid agencies said getting clean drinking water to people was essential, as once cholera got into the community it spread quickly. The government has allocated 450 million CFA (€7 million) to the municipalities and distributed bedding materials to areas affected.

Benin is one of the poorest countries in the world, dropping from 153rd to 161st place in the UN’s human development index between 2001 and 2009.