- Deadly floods that have swept across West Africa could lead to outbreaks of diarrhoea, malaria and other communicable diseases, the World Health Organisation (WHO) cautioned yesterday, calling for funding to respond to the emergency.
The heavy rains that began in June have claimed nearly 160 lives and affected some 600,000 people in the region.
While no outbreaks have been reported so far in affected countries including Ghana and Mali, there have been increased reports of malaria and diarrhoea, but WHO cautioned that a complete picture of how many people are suffering health conditions due to the flooding has not been obtained.
With the rains limited access health facilities, mothers and children risk getting ill due to lack of services, the agency said.
WHO also noted that the loss of critical services could prove to be life-threatening for some patients. For example, 12 dialysis machines in the central hospital in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, are off-line, putting the lives of dozens of chronically ill people at risk.
“Malnutrition could become an important issue as many people had poor nutritional statuses before the crises,” the agency said.
WHO’s country offices in West Africa require additional resources to address the emergency, as well as for fixing damaged health centres and medical supplies.
For Burkina Faso - where 150,000 people have been affected by floods and nearly 50,000 are seeking refuge in schools, churches and other public buildings - the agency has asked for over $400,000 from the $18 million flash appeal launched last week for the country for medicine, dialysis machines and other supplies.
The torrential rains have destroyed crops and infrastructure in a region already hard hit by poverty, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
“It’s a very worrisome situation that further weakens already impoverished populations,” Hervé Ludovic de Lys, head of OCHA in West Africa, said earlier this month.
“Natural disasters have lasting consequences that will have an impact for decades to come and take us back to square one in terms of the fight against poverty.”
UN humanitarian agencies and their partners have been providing emergency relief, including food, medical supplies, shelter material, hygiene kits and disinfection materials to those affected.
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