Niamey — Around 800 Nigerien families have been relocated from areas along the River Niger as water levels during annual flooding are expected to rise above normal and last until February.
The river is predicted to rise 540-565cm, which while not as high as recorded during the August 2012 flooding when it rose to 618cm, is above the 530cm alert level, the Niger Basin Authority said in a recent statement.
The flooding comes just a few months after more than 500,000 people were displaced and over 80 killed by floods in Niger following torrential rains in August and September 2012 which inundated thousands of rice farms.
The government estimates that the latest flooding has caused 10 billion CFA francs (US$20 million) worth of agricultural damage.
"Rice farming was badly affected by the August-September floods. They [farmers] lost all the harvest, but luckily new furrows around the rice fields have kept the river's December flooding in check," said Valérie Batselaere, media officer with Oxfam in Niger.
"Because many market farmers lost the first harvest, they were counting on the second harvest to repay debts and feed their families. Some farms were not replanted and other famers lost everything and are now depending on other sources of income to feed their families," Batselaere told IRIN.
Some of the families whose houses and farms were inundated during the 2012 rainy season are among the people now being relocated to a safer area. So far around 7,000 people have been resettled in Séno, a site in Niamey's fifth district set aside by the authorities to host those being relocated from the banks of the Niger.
"We have received 'gari' [cassava flour], a packet of sugar, a blanket and 30,000 francs [$60], said Fatima Karimou, one of those being relocated.
"We still need so much more," said Karimou's neighbour. "One blanket for a family with several children is not enough."
Risk of diseases
A makeshift clinic has been set up at Séno, where malarial, respiratory and diarrhoeal infections are the main diseases, said nurse Mamadou Amadou. "Out of some 40 patients we see every day, there are 15 children among them," he told IRIN.
Abdourahamane Douda of the hydrology department in Niger's Water Ministry called for a permanent relocation of those living on the banks of the river. The government has promised to rehabilitate 70 hectares of land for permanent residential quarters to house families affected by floods. Some people returned to the riverside after being relocated from the area in 2010 when the water levels also rose.
The heavy rains in 2012 were due to an active monsoon and above-normal temperatures. Niger was among the countries worst affected by Sahel flooding which killed hundreds and displaced hundreds of thousands others.
While rice farmers were hit, food security for affected households is expected to improve in the coming months, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET).
Last season's good rains have significantly improved harvests and pasture in many parts of Niger. Cereal harvests are expected to exceed five million tons, according to preliminary estimates, FEWS NET said.
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.]