African Skies Rain Death, Destruction on Villagers
Author: Miriam Imrie
But when floodwaters swirled through her village, her house
collapsed, leaving her homeless and hungry along with hundreds
of thousands of other hapless Africans who have suffered a
similar drenching fate across the continent's Sub-Saharan belt.
"I have no sleeping place and the grain stores also fell
down. All of our crops have totally failed. We have no food. We
are starving ... we have been eating only one meal a day," said
Apebani, 67, who comes from Pungu in Ghana's Upper East region.
She is among more than 300,000 people driven from their
homes in north Ghana alone by torrential rains and floods that
have swept over East and West Africa in recent weeks, destroying
homes and schools and washing away crops and livestock.
Conservative estimates put the number of those killed by the
deluges at some 200, and aid agencies say a million people have
been affected from Ethiopia in the east to Senegal in the west.
In Uganda, one of the countries worst hit, death continued
to fall from the sky.
Ugandan officials said lightning killed seven children and
injured 17 at Bujogo Primary School in western Hoima District on
Monday, the first day of the new academic year,
"In a flash of a moment, I saw pupils lying unconscious
outside the classroom ... Some had their skins peeled off,"
teacher Alexander Sabiiti told state-owned New Vision newspaper.
As aid agencies swung into action to try to house and feed
the homeless and protect them from disease, many flood victims
in northern Ghana were sleeping at night in schools while they
tried to salvage by day what was left of their belongings.
"The roof fell down ... The sand covered our possessions. We
had to dig them out," said Agodem Abablore, 72, who with his
wife Azekpajlie said they had not eaten for over a day.
Like many elderly villagers, they refused to leave their
fragile homes when the floods worsened, choosing to stay behind
to try to guard their possessions and livestock.
FOOD SHORTAGE THREAT
As it is, many have lost everything to the floods.
Farmer Majid Issaka from the Builsa district, one of the
worst affected, saw his farm on the edge of a river disappear
beneath the floodwaters.
"I came and saw the crops were destroyed," he said.
He and others feared disease fomented by the floods would
cause many more victims from cholera and malaria.
"The mosquitoes are coming and many people have been falling
sick," he said.
George Isaac Amoo, national coordinator of Ghana's National
Disaster Management Organisation, said that, while floodwaters
were receding in most places, there was a serious threat of food
shortages unless more rapid relief arrived for the victims.
The rains and floods inflicted extensive damage on a
northern region that was traditionally Ghana's major food
basket, growing rice, maize, millet and sorghum.
"This flood is unprecedented; thousands of acres of farmland
have been destroyed, including livestock," Amoo said
"Barns and silos ... stored food ... Infrastructure like
bridges and roads have all been destroyed," he added.
Ghana's government was distributing food rations and United
Nations experts were up in the north assessing emergency needs.
Cocoa, Ghana's main export, is not grown in the flood-hit
north, but heavier than normal rain has produced black pod, a
fungal infection, in some major producing areas.
(Additional reporting by Orla Ryan in Accra and Francis Kwera