Life between water and extreme poverty

by Judith Kühl,  2010/11/05

It has been raining continuously in Benin. For weeks. Large parts of the country are under water. Cholera and malaria are posing existential threats to the population, in particular to children.

About 12,000 people have not left flooded Kessounou; there is no escape from the water. Photo: humedica/Judith Kühl

For two weeks now, coordinator Judith Kühl and the humedica mission team members have been offering help in the flood region and they encounter people in terrible misery day by day. A report about life between water and poverty.

“Everything is flooded by polluted water: huts, schools, the health centre, public toilets and cattle sheds. The village of Kessounou (Dangbo) is located directly at the river.

A few weeks ago, the entire village was flooded, with the water level reaching two metres. In the meantime the water has retreated to a level of about one metre. The about twelve thousand inhabitants have not left. They do not know where to go. The next villages in the vicinity are also flooded.

Using wooden boats they get from one place to another. Children take a boat to get to school which seems like an island surrounded by water. When we drove through the village in our boat for the first time, people were waving to us excitedly out of the window-holes of their huts.

Their home seems like a prison. They can make short trips with their simple boats, but they have hardly any access to water, food, drugs and other goods.

A woman told us that at the beginning of the flood in September, inhabitants of the next city had driven out to them in motorboats in order to bring them water and food. In the meantime, hardly anyone visits the village. And then, the people imprisoned by the flood do not have any money left to pay for delivered goods. There is no organised supply or relief system.

The health station of Kessounou can only be reached by boat; this is where the humedica team offers medical treatment. Photo: humedica/Judith Kühl

Thousands of people in the villages surrounding the river have all but been forgotten. In their misery, they resolve to drinking the polluted water surrounding them and fall ill – the children in particular. Also the health centre of the village of Kessounou is an island protruding from the water.

The interior rooms are dry, but there are no materials or drugs. Some weeks ago, the centre had to be closed down due to the flood.

Yesterday, our team reopened the abandoned health centre together with the local nurse. When we entered the centre, it was abandoned. I doubted that any patients would make the boat trip to see us.

Would ill persons be able to make the way to us by boat? However, the news of our arrival spread rapidly. Within a few minutes, mothers and children came in their boats from all directions to see us.

Soon, the health centre was brimming with life. Babies were crying and mothers pushing through the entrance in order to be treated soon.

Many of the patients needed treatment and medications urgently. Besides malaria and undernutrition, which is frequently diagnosed by our doctors, people here are suffering above all from bilharziosis, a parasitic disease that can cause death.

In the weeks to come, we will visit Kessounou and the surrounding villages in order to continue helping those who have been forgotten.

The humedica team is sending kind regards from Benin to Germany.

Yours Judith Kühl”

Dear friends and sponsors, we would like to make you more aware of this mission in particular. The disaster is happening without the world public taking notice and without any lobbies speaking up for those affected. The people in Benin need our help urgently. Please make a targeted donation in order for us to be able to offer help in the flood regions also in future. Thank you very much.
      humedica e. V.
      Donation reference “Flood Benin
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren

You can also make a secure, fast and direct donation by means of sending a text message: simply send DOC to +49 8 11 90. Of your total donation of 5 euros, 4.83 euros will be channelled directly into the humedica disaster relief projects.

Of course we will keep you up to date regarding the situation in Benin. In this context we would also like to point out our social media presences, twitter (here, Simon Oeckenpöhler reports directly from Haiti), facebook and myspace.

There is hardly a picture that could express the desolate situation of the people in Benin more clearly than this one. Photo: humedica/Judith Kühl

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