After the Floods
Friday, January 07, 2011
"But with all the millions worth of valuable items disbursed to help the disaster victims, coupled with years of devising strategies, Amie’s priority has been misplaced." Kissykissymansa reports on the flood-hit families who are struggling to rebuild their lives…
Amie Manneh and her nucleus family were living quiet comfy and secure in a single bedroom and a parlor in Bundung, until on September 9, when a heavy downpour of rain ruined their house.
Four three months on, Amie, her husband and six children, including less-than a year-old baby have been living in this naked house.
"All of us sleep here. Me, my husband and our six children," she said, pointing at 3×3 square metre room, part of which is severely cracked susceptible to not only rays of sun, but rats invasion.
The Gambia has experienced heavy rains throughout July, August, and September 2010, causing extensive flooding, which resulted in loss of lives, crops and livelihoods, as well as large scale damage to infrastructure and household property.
In the rural-Upper River region of The Gambia, eighty percent of swamp rice fields in over seventeen villages and 160 households, have been destroyed by floods, according to Mawdo Jallow, the regional disaster management coordinator of the area.
"We were expecting a good harvest this year because there was enough rain, but crops our crops were destroyed by floods," decried the village head of Chamoi Bunda village. "Forty hectares of my village’s communal rice field as well as host of individual and family farms were all lost to the floods."
Added to the destruction of farms in the village of Bantunding in Wuli, Upper River region, the floods sparked crocodile infestation and the village head said he had advised villagers to abandon their farms.
But farmers in the rural-Upper River region aren’t alone without harvest this year, as similar situation was obtained in the rural-Lower River region where farmers have their crops washed-away by the heavy downpour.
"We have no hope this year as far as harvesting is concern," said Pierre Bah, district head of Niani, "after all the hard work, everything has come to zero."
"We are not receiving any monthly salary neither are we entitled to any allowance of some sort. Our farms are our source survival. It is our last hope," also decried Mamanding Suwaneh, 67, the village head of Wassu where over 300 hectares of rice field was is consumed by flood waters.
According to the executive director of the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), Essa Khan over 34, 000 out of the country’s human population of 1.5 million have been affected by this year’s floods.
Although he declined to give a break-down of the impact pending the approval of the vice president of The Gambia, the latest country assessment conducted by the national disaster body, in collaboration with partners, including Red Cross, reveals that as at end September, 12 human lives were lost, including a teenage girl, who was on her way from school when she was washed-away into a gutter by the floods.
"Over 6, 000 people have been displaced, who have sought refuge in neighboring houses, schools and community structures," the report states. A high proportion being extremely poor, the displaced population, comprising women and children have critical food and non-food needs. Water, hygiene and sanitation have become a major concern to the concerned communities.
Assessment report further indicates that there has been 87 diarrhea cases, 57 fever cases, as at 15 September.
Significant lost of livelihoods have been reported particularly for small traders and farmers whose goods have been destroyed or damaged and farms submerged.
The Government declared a state of national disaster, September 7, and launched an appeal both at national level and abroad for additional relief and rehabilitation efforts.
This has opened the flood-gate of assistance as millions worth of food and non-food items have been delivered to national disaster body. The donors range from, public, private institutions to individual citizens living in the country and abroad.
The government has not been left behind as the president himself has donated over D15 million worth of food items to the victims, through various local government authorities.
And since Amie’s line local authority is Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC), she was directed by the councilor in her area to seek for assistance at the council.
"I went to KMC," she says, "and I was given 3 bags of rice, 10 litre gallon of [cooking] oil, and 5 kilo of sugar."
However, this gesture has done little to help Amie and her family out of their predicament. "I already had bags of rice before my house fell-down," she says, "What I need is cement and sand or help of any kind to re-construct my house."
Infact a week before Amie’s house was ravaged, an outspoken parliamentarian Sidia Jatta has highlighted that the magnitude of this year’s floods exceed the capacity of the victims to cope using their own resources.
"In my view, giving food items is a good gesture but it does not necessarily amount to substantive relief granted to disaster victims," Sidia Says, "what constitutes substantive relief is to return the victim to be as close to his/her financial or material wellbeing prior to the disaster. Those who lost horses should be able to get horses back. Those whose buildings collapsed should be able to get shelter in return."
However, according to Essa Khan, the Gambia is achieving success in its disaster management strategies every year. "We are in a transition from managing the crises to managing the risk," he said. "We have decentralised our activities. Each of the administrative regions now has regional disaster coordinators headed by the traditional chiefs, who carry on the activities of building community resilience," he added.
According to Khan, plans are underway to transform the existing Village Development Committee to the Disaster Management Coordinators at village level, but he acknowledges that it requires money.
He further added that relief is not sustainable, hence The Gambia is also implementing the Africa Regional Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction, which requires AU member states to increase political commitment to disaster risk reduction, improve identification and assessment of disaster risk, increase public awareness of disaster risk reduction, improve governance and integrate disaster risk reduction in emergency management.
"We noticed that some of the people are settling in areas that are prone to floods. We can’t drastically evict them but we will step up advocacy campaigns."
But with all the millions’ worth of valuable items disbursed to help the disaster victims, coupled with years of devising strategies, Amie’s priority has been misplaced.
She says she is desperate for a home for her family. What she and her family need is a roof over their head. Her carpenter husband is finding it difficult to cope with the daily upkeeping of the family’s needs because he is unable to win contracts. "My husband has not been working for a while; otherwise I would not have been seeking assistance," bemoaned Amie.
Author: Saihou Jammeh