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Congo government appeals for more and urgent help as severe floods affect 213 000 people

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Government authorities of the Republic of Congo have appealed for further prompt help as the number of people afflicted by the heavy flooding since last year climbed to 213 000. Inundations have wreaked havoc across the country, leaving thousands displaced, a number of people dead, buildings and homes damaged, roads blocked, and rivers swollen.

In November 2019, the country– also called Congo-Brazzaville– declared a state of natural disaster after heavy rains caused rivers to break their banks, displacing at least 50 000 people.

Between October 2019 and January 2020, the number of affected people across the country rose to about 170 000, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA).

However, authorities reported on Saturday that the figures have risen to 213 000. With this, President Denis Sassou Ngueso, along with his officials, appealed for further assistance.

"The challenges are enormous and we are working to provide an effective response. We hope our partners will help us," said Christian Aboke-Ndza, cabinet director at the ministry of humanitarian affairs.

Dozens of people have lost their lives since the widespread flooding began in late 2019. Furthermore, illnesses linked to floodwaters have also impacted people in affected areas.

"Those affected no longer have access to drinking water and hygiene and sanitary products remain scarce, exacerbating the risks of contamination of water-borne diseases such as typhoid, cholera, and malaria," UN OCHA stated in their flood response plan in February.

Almost all of the means and areas of agricultural production have been ravaged, officials said. The afflicted population has little access to health services as flooding destroyed roads and blocked streets.

"The floods have destroyed or damaged most of the houses and communication routes in the affected areas and the majority of families are sleeping outside without the possibility of evacuation and supplies," UN OCHA wrote.

Around seven million dollars from this amount has already been secured, said Cyr Modeste Kouame from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. In addition, the World Food Program (WFP) in the area have provided food aid, as well as cash assistance amounting to 330 000 dollars.

"Unfortunately, we see today that these efforts are not sufficient," stated WFP Congo-Brazzaville director Jean-Martin Bauer. "The scale and severity of the crisis and its duration over time have been underestimated."

According to the UN, further financial assistance would be needed to address the ongoing crisis. "The humanitarian community and the government need more than 30 million dollars to meet the needs of the affected population."

The priority needs identified are clean water, food, sanitation, shelter, and other essential non-food items.

Featured image credit: Jean-Martin Bauer/WFP

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