West African floods spark warning from UN humanitarian wing

31 July 2008United Nations relief officials warned today that heavy rains across West Africa have brought renewed flooding to the region, threatening the homes and livelihoods of tens of thousands of people and jeopardizing the already fragile food security situation. More than 50,000 people in seven West African countries have been affected by floods so far, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).In Mali, at least six people are reported to have died in the capital, Bamako, because of the floods, while the rising waters of the Senegal River have displaced about 4,600 people in southern Mauritania.Another 10,000 people have been forced from their homes in Togo and that country’s trade links with Burkina Faso have been disrupted after the rains made nine bridges unusable.OCHA’s West African chief Hervè Ludovic de Lys told UN Radio that much of the region has yet to recover from last year’s season of devastating floods, and this year’s inundations combined with rising food prices could leave thousands of people needing food assistance.Mr. de Lys said landlocked countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad have been suffering especially hard from the global food and energy crisis, and may find it difficult to respond to further pressure such as the floods.Earlier this week the UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced it was expanding its West African operations to feed an additional 1.4 million people in Guinea, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burkina Faso and Senegal who are struggling as a result of the food crisis. read more