Three months for the flood victims - a coordinator looks back on her mission

by Karin Uckrow/SRA,  2011/02/23

For more than three months, Karin Uckrow coordinated the humedica relief mission in the flood regions of Benin. After she returned and after our immediate flood relief measures in the West African country were concluded a few weeks ago, she is now looking back on the project for us.

"Last year Benin was experiencing heavier rainfalls than for years. The heavy rainfalls, which set in in July 2010, caused floods in many provinces of the country which, in turn, caused large-scale damage.

For more than three months, Karin Uckrow worked as a coordinator for humedica in Benin. Photo: humedica

According to official statements, about 300,000 persons were left destitute. More than 5,000 houses were destroyed completely. A substantial part of the crops was destroyed and with it a total of 26,000 hectares of fields and cropland.

The consequences of the floods were all the more dramatic, as 90 percent of the population of the West African state of Benin depend on agriculture directly or indirectly.

In October 2010, the Ambassador of Benin to Germany, His Excellency Isidore Bio, asked humedica to help the people in his country. Only a few days later, the first medical team of humedica set out to the disaster area.

Immediately after their arrival, the humedica assistants started organising and running mobile hospitals. With this mobile medical care, we intended to offer help in particular to those flood victims who were living in remote, rural areas.

We treated more than 4,500 patients at more than fifteen different locations in the southern provinces of Benin. We visited each mission location several times; on the one hand with the objective of treating all the patients in need of help. On the other hand, this also enabled us to administer follow-up treatments, which were necessary in some cases.

The heaviest rainfalls for years caused massive floods in large parts of Benin's southern provinces. Photo: humedica/Judith Kühl

It was mostly women and children who took advantage of our help. It was this group of the population in particular that had been affected worst by the floods.

But this is also the group suffering most disadvantages due to the often only insufficient health system in Benin's rural areas.

Other destinations of our missions were several refugee camps. There, thousands of families still have to live in makeshift tents and depend on external help.

humedica often was the only organisation offering medical help at these camps. All the greater was the joy and gratitude expressed by the camp's inhabitants.

Besides offering medical care by means of our mobile hospitals, we could also support the flood victims in Benin by means of so-called "non-food-items".

We provided them with blankets, mosquito nets, sleeping mats, water disinfection tablets, school material, cooking utensils, soap, buckets and water cans.

Doctor teams of humedica brought medical help also to those flood victims living in remote regions of the country. Photo: Sureka Enoxi

In order to offer further support to the numerous families, we also supplied them with tools. These tools were to help the people to rebuild their houses, or respectively, to enable them to build new houses.

However, these relief goods were not only distributed at refugee camps. We also supplied several social welfare institutions in Benin that focussed on caring for women, children and young adults who had slid into misery due to the floods.

Cooperation with these social welfare institutions, and above all with Caritas Benin, was entirely positive. It enabled us to offer a broad variety of relief measures and to reach many people also in rural areas.

We supplied more than 25 mission hospitals with important drugs and medical goods in the southern provinces. These hospitals make an essential contribution to offering medical care to the population.

The nuns and friars at these institutions provide an access to medical treatment in particular to the poorer classes of population. This is not only achieved by professional staff and effective structures at the mission hospitals.

More than 25 mission hospitals were provided with aid shipments of drugs and medical equipment by humedica. Photo: humedica/Sven Ramones

Driven by their admirable devotion, the women and men running these hospitals take care of those who otherwise would hardly have access to medical treatment. To the humedica team it has been a great pleasure to have been able to make such an important contribution.

Since this natural disaster had hardly been mentioned in the media, the relief measures implemented in the framework of the humedica flood relief project in Benin could only be realised thanks to the generous financial support of 180,000 euros donated by the German Federal Foreign Office, as well as to impressive donations made among others by the foundation "Bild hilft - Ein Herz für Kinder" (Bild helps - A Heart for Children).

Furthermore, we received comprehensive support by our local partner organisation Foundation Espace Afrique, which essentially contributed to a successful implementation of our humanitarian aid in Benin.

Being a coordinator, I had the pleasure of accompanying this project for more than three months. I would like to thank the numerous employees who worked in the framework of this mission for their wonderful commitment.

The medical teams of humedica consisted of professional and experienced assistants, who worked at the project's different stages with a lot of joy and motivation.

Also humedica would like to thank all its friends and sponsors, donors and supporters, as well as our local project partners for the help we received during our project in Benin.

Thanks to your commitment we were able to pass on this help to the needy ones in one of the poorest countries in the world.

On behalf of the flood victims, we would like to thank you for your support. Photo: humedica/Karin Uckrow

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