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General News of Friday, 21 September 2007

Source: he Vancouver Sun

Devastation leaves homeless and hungry in dire need

SANDEMA, Ghana -- As rain fell in torrents onto her dirt-walled home in northern Ghana, Asubonga Apebani tried desperately to staunch the leaks in her roof.

But when floodwaters swirled through her village, her house collapsed, leaving her homeless and hungry along with hundreds of thousands of other hapless Africans who have suffered a similar drenching fate across the continent's sub-Saharan belt.

"I have no sleeping place and the grain stores also fell down. All of our crops have totally failed. We have no food. We are starving . . . we have been eating only one meal a day," said Apebani, 67, who comes from Pungu in Ghana's Upper East region.

She is among more than 300,000 people driven from their homes in north Ghana alone by torrential rains and floods that have swept over East and West Africa in recent weeks, destroying homes and schools and washing away crops and livestock.

s aid agencies swung into action to try to house and feed the homeless and protect them from disease, many flood victims in northern Ghana were sleeping at night in schools while they tried to salvage by day what was left of their belongings.

"The roof fell down . . . The sand covered our possessions. We had to dig them out," said Agodem Abablore, 72, who with his wife Azekpajlie said they had not eaten for over a day.

Like many elderly villagers, they refused to leave their fragile homes when the floods worsened, choosing to stay behind to try to guard their possessions and livestock.

And many have lost everything.

Farmer Majid Issaka from the Builsa district, one of the worst affected, saw his farm on the edge of a river disappear beneath the floodwaters. "I came and saw the crops were destroyed," he said.

He and others feared disease fomented by the floods would cause many more victims from cholera and malaria. "The mosquitoes are coming and many people have been falling sick," he said.

George Isaac Amoo, coordinator of Ghana's National Disaster Management Organization, said that, while floodwaters were receding in most places, there was a serious threat of food shortages unless more rapid relief arrived.

The rains and floods inflicted extensive damage on a northern region that was traditionally Ghana's major food basket, growing rice, maize, millet and sorghum. "This flood is unprecedented; thousands of acres of farmland have been destroyed, including livestock," Amoo said

"Barns and silos . . . stored food . . . Infrastructure like bridges and roads have all been destroyed," he added.

Ghana's government was distributing food rations and United Nations experts were up in the north assessing emergency needs.

Cocoa, Ghana's main export, is not grown in the flood-hit north, but heavier than normal rain has produced black pod, a fungal infection, in some major producing areas.