The Yaoundé Sanitation Project (PADY) has reduced the number of floods in the Cameroonian capital by five times (from 15 to 3).
The project was launched in 2007 and financed by the African Development Bank, with the second phase starting in 2013.
The goal was to eliminate floods by 2020.
An impressive amount of work has been carried out: a 3.5 km canal has been created on the bed of the Mfoundi River; a supporting 6 km drainage channel has been dug separately; and two towpaths and crossings and four drainage channels (8 km in total) have been built along river tributaries. The new system for removing excess water represents a major upgrade to the urban environment in Yaoundé and means that local people have less to fear from heavy rainfall.
"The centre of Yaoundé has over the last 20 years suffered many floods, which have led to loss of life. The drainage infrastructure has greatly reduced flood risk in the city centre," said Gérard Essi Ntoumba, a PADY engineer.
In 2015, the people of Yaoundé were hit by one of the worst floods in recent history. Four people died, many others were displaced, houses were destroyed and waterborne diseases increased. Five years later, the city's inhabitants are free of that risk. Serious floods are now only a memory in a city that is home to nearly 2.5 million of Cameroon's total population of 23 million.
The African Development Bank is committed to implementing the second phase of the Yaoundé Sanitation Project (PADY 2). The first stage, which received $36 million in funding, developed 20% of the main stream of the Mfoundi River and its four tributaries, which cross the city of Yaoundé.
The second phase will develop the remaining watercourses and includes the construction of drainage channels, and a facility for collecting and processing domestic sewage.
The initiative has encouraged local people to get involved in cleaning and improving their environment. Groups have been set up in different districts of Yaoundé to carry out community-led activities.
"Before we had stagnant water here and it was even polluting the Mfoundi River. There was dirt and it was a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Now we have improved the roadways around the neighbourhood so that rainwater can flow away. Everyone who used the roads in the past is happy when they see what we have done," said Abraham Bienvenu Ambassa, head of Yaoundé's District No. 1.
Every weekend Abraham puts on his boots and helmet and joins local people in a neighbourhood cleaning operation. "My role here is to protect local people. I give a plan of action for things that we need to do, and we get down to work. We clean regularly, before and after the rains. It is important to teach people how to keep water-gathering points clean to prevent mosquitoes from breeding," he said.
Paul Eloundou Onomo, the head of the district hospital in Efoulan, a district of Yaoundé, said the reduction of flooding has had reduced hospital admissions.
"A year and a half ago, we noticed that the curve of diseases related to the environment and air pollution was on the decline, especially for malaria, typhoid fever and diarrhoea-related diseases affecting children. These illnesses were very common before the PADY 2 project. They are still happening, but not to the same extent," he said.