UNHCR stepping in as Benin flood impact grows

Briefing Notes, 22 October 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 22 October 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is expecting to begin an emergency airlift to Benin in the next days amid the floods there which according to government and UN estimates are now affecting some 680,000 people.

While our normal work in Benin is in relation to the refugee and asylum-seeking population of some 7,300 people, we have been called upon to help with the emergency shelter needs of some of the homeless people in southern parts of the country where we have a presence.

As of today the focus is on making arrangements for the reception, storage and distribution of our relief items. We plan to initially airlift some 3000 tents from our emergency stockpile in Copenhagen. We have already been providing tents and mosquito nets from our more limited stockpiles in the region. We are also providing logistical support to our partners for their transportation needs while reinforcing our staff presence.

Of clear concern to all of us is the rising number of people who are being affected by these floods. Seasonal heavy rains have been hitting West Africa for several months and normally last until November, however what has happened this year goes well beyond normal flooding for Benin. Fifty-five out of the country's 77 districts are affected. Weather forecasts this morning show no signs of any let up yet.

Our refugee population, which is located in the south of the country, is not heavily affected at this time.