Niger River reaches highest level in 80 years
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Thousands of people are awaiting aid in Niger after record rains caused flooding that destroyed hundreds of homes and crops. The River Niger, which flows through nine west African countries, is at its highest level in almost 100 years.
Exceptionally high precipitation has sent the river flowing at 1,990 cubic metres per second - its highest level since 1929, according to the Niger Basin Authority.
In Niger's capital Niamey, more than 5,500 people have been affected by the rising waters since Thursday, regional governor Soumana Djibo said.
More than 500 hectares of rice and vegetable fields have been destroyed.
The cities of Tillabéri in the east and Dosso in the south have also seen heavy flooding.
"The river has completely overflown its bed and flooded practically everything," Adamou Garba of the African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development told RFI. "People are even having to borrow canoes to get back into their homes."
Those in affected areas are being urged to head to the dozen relief camps set up by Niger's government.
Several thousand people are also reported to have lost their homes in neighbouring Chad.
Across the border in northern Central African Republic, torrential rains have left more than 800 people homeless and in a "precarious" situation, according to the local Red Cross.
Niger is a largely desert area in west Africa, larger than Nigeria but with a smaller population at about 15 million people. Its people face several social and political problems:
- Hunger: more than three-quarters of the population lack food and need it urgently to cover the nutritrional gap caused by low production during the rainy season;
- Education: 28.7 per cent adult literacy, with an estimated 15 per cent of women able to read; 80 per cent of girls aged between seven and 12 are not going to school.
- Health: Very poor health coverage in rural areas. Only four out of 10 babies live till five years.
- Economy: Dependent on uranium whose price has fallen. The country imported almost 70 per cent of goods consumed. 70 000 receive regular wages or salaries.