UNHCR stepping in as Benin flood impact grows

News Stories, 22 October 2010

Map of Benin

GENEVA, October 22 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency said Friday it expects to begin an emergency airlift to Benin in the next few days to help an estimated 680,000 people affected by floods.

"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," Adrian Edwards, a UNHCR spokesman, told journalists in Geneva.

"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 3,000 tents from our emergency stockpile in Copenhagen," he said, adding: "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."

UNHCR is concerned about the rising number of people who are being affected by these floods. Some 680,000 people are currently affected, according to government and UN estimates.

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 on Friday morning showed no signs of any let up yet.

Edwards said the refugee population in Benin is located in the south of the country and is not heavily affected at this time.