Record Sahel Flooding Affects Hundreds Of Thousands

16 Sep 2020 by Staff - Water Diplomat
Niamey, Niger

Severe flooding in recent weeks has affected more than 750,000 people in Africa’s Sahel region. Nations and communities, already challenged by conflict, population displacement, water insecurity, climate change impacts, conflict and COVID-19 face an unprecedented confluence of challenges. Sudan, Niger, South Sudan and Nigeria are worst hit so far, with further rains anticipated across the region.

The Sahel’s rainy season, from June to September, often brings floods but this year, indicatively, water levels of the Nile River have hit century-high levels following unprecedented rainfall.

The Niger River has overflowed, killing at least 45 in Niger’s capital, Niamey, and displacing around 226,000 people.

Flooding in Nigeria has damaged over 500,000 hectares of farm produce, where the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has warned of food shortages. The UN estimates that around 80 percent of the Sahel’s farmland is degraded, and with temperatures rising there 1.5 times faster than in the rest of the world food production is under increasing threat. Over 33 million people in the region are classified as food insecure.

Across Sudan and South Sudan, at least 200 people have been killed, with 100,000 homes destroyed in Sudan and 5,000 people displaced in South Sudan. A three-month state of emergency has been declared in Sudan where Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok described the situation as "catastrophic and painful’.

Guillaume Favreau, a hydrologist with the Institute for Research and Development (IRD) describing the Niger situation as exceptional to Radio France Internationale on 9 September, observed that there are short term causes (this year’s rain); long-term intensification of the rainy season; and local causes in (capital) Niamey, including significant soil erosion, and deforestation on the watersheds of the Niamey, Sirba, Dargole rivers associated with demand for charcoal. wood and firewood. Also gold mines and rural activities that deforest degrade slopes, bringing in massive amounts of water.