First UNHCR emergency aid flight arrives in Benin

UNHCR relief supplies will aid thousands of families left homeless by severe flooding.

Some of the 1500 tents destined for victims of flooding in Benin are unloaded from a UNHCR-chartered cargo plane in the capital Cotonou. A second flight is due to arrive Friday morning.   © UNHCR/H.M. Gologo

COTONOU, Benin October 28 (UNHCR) - The first flight in a UNHCR emergency airlift to assist the victims of devastating flooding in this West African country landed in the capital Cotonou Thursday morning carrying 1500 tents.

A second relief flight, carrying and additional 1500 tents, is scheduled to arrive early Friday morning.

The tents will provide emergency shelter to some of the estimated 680,000 people who have been affected by the flooding in Benin. UNHCR emergency team members in Cotonou say the first consignment of tents will be sent to areas where the flood waters have begun to recede.

The UN refugee agency's presence in Benin is normally focused on providing protection and assistance to more than 7,000 refugees and asylum seekers, the majority from neighbouring Togo. Due to the severity of the flooding, the agency has been asked to assist with emergency shelter needs as part of a joint UN emergency response to the floods. UNHCR is also assessing to what extent the refugees, who mostly live in the south of the country, have been affected.

The distribution of relief supplies drawn from limited UNHCR stockpiles in the region is already underway.

"With more than 3,000 tents, some 15,000 people will get decent temporary shelter close to their flood-ravaged homes. This will allow them to start repairs while they wait for the national rehabilitation effort to start," said Angèle Dikongué-Atangana, UNHCR's Representative in Benin. "As a priority, the first to receive tents will be those who have been left homeless and who are presently squatting along the roads. These people are particularly vulnerable and at risk."

UNHCR remains concerned about the growing number of people affected by the floods. Heavy rains are a seasonal occurrence in West Africa, though this year's downfall in Benin has been considerably higher than normal with 55 of the country's 77 districts experiencing flooding. The rains are expected to continue into November.