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General News of Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Source: VOA

VOA: Ghana Hardest Hit in West Africa Floods, 350,000 People Affected

In West Africa, some 17 countries have been affected by flooding and right now it appears Ghana has been hardest hit. The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says at least 30 people have died in northeastern Ghana. Most of the deaths are attributed to drowning, watery diarrhea or the collapse of mud houses.

Niels Scott is the operations coordinator for Africa for the federation. From Geneva, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the flood situation.

“Ghana is one of the worst hit of the countries, if not the most vulnerable to this recent continuation of flooding that we’ve had all year. About 350,000 people are affected, which is not much less than the severe floods we had in Sudan two months ago. 110,000 hectares of farmland have been washed away. The crops on top of the farmland have been washed away. People’s grain stocks have been destroyed. There’s a very strong risk of communicable disease breaking out. There are a number of aspects of this flooding which make us think that we need to work very hard to make sure there’s not a larger humanitarian catastrophe ahead,” he says.

Scott describes the health problems triggered by the floods. “At the moment, we’re looking at increasing cases of cholera and watery diarrhea. In Ghana, we’ve got an additional problem. There’s a large influx of black flies, which cause river blindness. In any kind of flooding situation where you’ve got open wells you’ll have contamination of the water, which will cause any number of gastric problems. So those are some of the things. But ahead of that, when the lean season starts and people run out of food because the crops have been destroyed, we’ll have a whole new vulnerability being created by lack of access to food,” he says.

The federation says, “Hundreds of Ghana Red Cross volunteers and staff have been mobilized over the past weeks in all affected communities. They are providing first aid, helping evacuate people to high ground, and assisting them in salvaging whatever belongings they can. They are also distributing relief items.”

Scott says, “We’re hoping to get out some chlorine tabs and other forms of rendering safe drinking water to the people. Some mosquito nets when they’re out in the open to protect them against the malaria bearing mosquitoes, which are starting to breed in the stagnant water. We’re helping them with a bit of shelter, equipment.”

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched a preliminary appeal of $1.2 million to support relief operations in Ghana.