First UNHCR emergency aid flight arrives in Benin

Press Releases, 28 October 2010

The first flight in a UNHCR emergency airlift to Benin landed in Cotonou at 0520hrs local time this morning. The UNHCR-chartered McDonnell Douglas DC-10 took off from Liege in Belgium late yesterday evening (Wednesday, 27 October) carrying 1500 tents from the agency's emergency stockpile in Copenhagen. The tents will provide urgently needed shelter for victims of the country's catastrophic flooding.

A UNHCR emergency logistician, deployed to Benin on Monday, reported this morning that the three-engine cargo jet had been unloaded on the tarmac at Cotonou's Cadjehoun airport. The landing of a second flight carrying a further 1500 tents is scheduled for the early hours of Friday, 29 October.

UNHCR tents, which are part of the overall UN humanitarian response to floods in Benin, will be sent as soon as possible to those parts of Benin where waters are receding and where there are possibilities to erect them. Benin authorities and Caritas Benin are coordinating the distribution of shelter and humanitarian assistance to an estimated 680,000 people affected by the floods in this West African nation.

UNHCR's regular work in Benin is geared towards providing protection and assistance to some 7,300 mostly Togolese refugees and asylum-seekers. They are located in the south of the country and some of them have been affected by the floods. UNHCR is in contact with them to assess the extent to which they are affected and to ensure that these refugees are included in the national response mechanism.

Due to the severity of the current flooding UNHCR has been called upon to help with the emergency shelter needs of some of the homeless people, particularly in southern parts of the country where we have a presence. We have already been providing tents, mosquito nets and blankets from our limited stockpiles in the region.

"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", says 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 with no alternative accommodation. These people are particularly vulnerable and at risk."

UNHCR remains concerned about the rising number of people who are being affected by the floods. Seasonal heavy rains have been hitting West Africa for several months and normally last until November. This year's torrential rains go well beyond normal flooding for Benin. Fifty-five out of the country's 77 districts are affected. Weather forecasts show no signs of rain letting up yet.