Baptist relief provides hope to Niger Riverís flood survivorscomment (0)
November 15, 2012
Floods are nasty. Water destroys, dissolves, stains, reeks, stagnates and displaces. Even in the “best” circumstances, recovering from flood is a long-term effort.
For those with homes built of mud and livelihoods based on farming, the devastation — and the time it takes to rebuild — multiplies exponentially.
This was the initial assessment of Baptist Global Response (BGR) partners who distributed 306 hygiene and living kits to families in two communities in Niger — Sarando and Yonkoto — after the Niger River reached its highest levels in 90 years following heavy annual rains. According to reports, rising floodwaters have killed 81 people and destroyed 37,000 homes, affecting nearly half the country’s already impoverished communities.
In the village of Sarando water destroyed nearly 95 percent of houses, granaries and other mud block structures, BGR partner Gabe Manor reported. “It was like walking through a village of wax houses,” Manor said.
BGR partner Shadrach Black agreed. “It’s like building a house out of play-doh and then squishing it,” he said.
The BGR team worked with representatives from the United Nations and other aid organizations to “fill the gaps” in smaller or harder-to-reach communities. This level of cooperation assured that organizations were not duplicating efforts and ultimately allowed aid to reach more hurting people, explained Mark Hatfield, who directs BGR’s work in sub-Saharan Africa.
The kits contained mosquito nets, mats, blankets, buckets, soap, a kettle, sugar and tea. The BGR team purchased the items in local markets, allowing relief to get to affected families much more quickly than importing from other countries would.
“Our goal was that this distribution would be relational,” Manor explained.
While villagers in both communities were grateful, both Manor and Black admitted their own struggle with the inadequacy of their efforts in the face of such great need.
Tini Magarie, a leader in another heavily affected village, put their efforts in perspective. Magarie thanked the team for providing what he described in the local language as “readiness.” Receiving things to be set aside for later use helps villagers “get ready” to rebuild once floodwaters recede, he said.
Black said, “Our buckets, mats and blankets represent hope — hope and ‘readiness’ that when the time comes, they will rebuild their lives.”
In addition to BGR’s aid to flood victims in Niger, the Baptist World Alliance has sent an initial $10,000 to help with flood relief in Nigeria.
According to Olasupo Ayokunle, president and chief executive officer of the Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC), “rivers overflowed their bridges, roads were cut off and many communities were submerged.” The NBC has responded to the flooding with truckloads of food.
For more information on how to help, visit baptistglobalresponse.com or bwanet.org.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Names have been changed.