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West Africa hit hard by climate crisis as deadly floods decimate lives and livelihoods

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West and Central Africa

Above-average rainfall and devastating floods in West and Central Africa have affected five million people in 19 countries in the region, claiming hundreds of lives, disrupting livelihoods, displacing tens of thousands from their homes and decimating more than a million hectares of farmland, in a region already in the grip of an unprecedented hunger crisis.

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This weather-related disaster is one of the deadliest the region has seen in years and is likely to deepen the already dire hunger of millions of people.

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Floods hit West Africa as world leaders prepare to meet on the climate crisis at COP27 in Egypt, highlighting the urgent need to help communities on the front lines of the climate crisis adapt, scale up solutions that address the losses and damage sustained during weather-related disasters.

and investing in climate action in fragile contexts.

“Families in West Africa have already been pushed to the brink by conflict, the socio-economic fallout from the pandemic and skyrocketing food prices.

These floods act as a misery multiplier and are the final straw for communities already struggling to stay afloat,” said Chris Nikoi, Regional Director for West Africa at the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).

WFP is on the ground helping families affected by the floods get back on their feet by providing an immediate response package, while helping build community resilience to future crises and paving the way out of this catastrophic situation” Nikoi added.

Short-term weather forecasts indicate above-average seasonal rainfall across the West African region (except southern coastal areas), with the risk of floods affecting people and further increasing humanitarian needs.

A confluence of calamities has already left 43 million people facing crisis and emergency levels of food insecurity (IPC/CH phases 3+4) during the lean season from June to August.

In response, WFP is on the ground providing a three-month emergency assistance package targeting 427,000 flood-affected women, men and children in critically affected countries, including Central African Republic, Chad, Gambia, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe.

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WFP also provides a post-flood response primarily targeting small farmers whose crops have been destroyed.

WFP’s emergency food assistance is provided in the form of food and cash disbursements to help affected families meet their basic food and nutrition needs at a time when food prices are soaring, already causing basic meals are out of reach for vulnerable families.

In many countries in the region, food prices continue to rise compared to the five-year average.

Maize prices, for example, increased by 106%, 78% and 42%, respectively, in Ghana, Niger and Nigeria.

In Burkina Faso, sorghum prices increased by 85%.

In Mauritania, wheat increased by 49%, while in Sierra Leone, imported rice increased by a staggering 87%.

Spiraling prices for food, fuel and fertilizer are not only exacerbating the hunger crisis but also fueling socio-economic tensions as governments struggle to respond to the crisis due to heavy debt burdens and limited tax space.

In addition to responding to the immediate needs of communities affected by the floods, WFP is implementing an anticipatory action program that helps build the capacity of governments and partners.

This includes establishing early warning systems to better prepare for climate extremes when they occur and providing funding opportunities to avoid or mitigate the impacts of impending extreme weather events.

In August, WFP activated its Niger Early Action targeting 200,000 people at risk with early warning messages and advisory information.

“Strengthening resilience and promoting climate adaptation is an essential part of anticipating climate hazards, restoring degraded ecosystems, and protecting vulnerable communities against the impact of climate extremes,” Nikoi said.

In the drylands of the Sahel, WFP’s approach is to build local resilience to the cascading effects of the climate crisis, by promoting agricultural techniques that help restore degraded land and ecosystems.

WFP supports communities in building rainwater harvesting systems and other sustainable water storage options that allow farmers to plant fruits and vegetables even after riverbeds dry up.

WFP also implements a climate risk insurance scheme that improves climate risk management by African governments.

In 2022, WFP disbursed US$9.4 million from the African Risk Capacity (ARC) Replication for the implementation of an early response plan in Mauritania, Mali and Burkina Faso following the 2021 drought.

To ensure that the response program to the WFP floods can effectively help the affected communities, the WFP needs 15 million dollars until March 2023.

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