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Providing Food to the Most Vulnerable Flood-Affected Populations in Benin

From September to November 2010, Benin experienced some of the worst flooding it has seen in a century. WFP has been working since then to provide food assistance to those most affected by the floods and to help these populations resume their livelihood.

COTONOU – Twelve year-old Ayaba Amoussou looks gravely into the dark of a small shelter made out of sticks and palm branches where an older woman is lying down, breathing heavily and grabbing at her stomach. “That’s my mother. She has malaria and her stomach hurts. But we don’t have anything to feed her except for this,” says the girl, as she points to a dozen dried-up ears of corn. “That’s it for all of us.”

Ayaba has had to take on an unimaginable burden. She lives in Zagnanado, one of the hardest-hit areas in Benin, which is experiencing the worst flooding it has seen in a century. Over 680,000 people in 55 of the country’s 77 municipalities have been affected, and more than 105,000 people have lost their homes. Schools, hospitals, and infrastructure have been severely damaged, farmlands ruined, and food stocks lost.

Ayaba is part of one of the thousands of families who have lost their homes and livelihoods in the flooding. She lives with almost 200 other families in a tent community that emerged alongside the only paved road in Zagnanado after their houses were swept away in the flooding in September and October 2010. She spends her day trying to catch fish in the nearby river in the hope of selling it to passing cars. Burdened with the daily support of her sick mother and 4 brothers and sisters, she just doesn't have the time or energy for anything else. Going to school here is no longer possible anyway as other displaced people moved into it for shelter.  

Near Ayaba sits Mr. Léonard Djovonou, a subsistence farmer whose fields have been ravaged in the floods. He doesn’t know how he will support his 6 children, “We have nothing; almost everything was ruined.” Looking around at his new community, he says, “What you see here is suffering.”

In order to help those like Ayaba and Léonard, WFP has undertaken distributions through an immediate emergency operation that provides 662 metric tons of food to 50,000 people, including 9,000 children under five, who have been displaced by flooding and are located in the most affected communes in Benin. Full family rations, with a supplementary ration for children under five, are provided for the duration of three weeks to ensure that families are supported through the most vulnerable period right after a disaster.

This immediate food assistance is being followed by a broader longer-term emergency response with a series of nutrition, cash-for-work and food-for-work activities over 6 months to help households rebuild their livelihoods, meet their essential needs, and resume economic activities in the affected communities.

Distributions began on Saturday, 30 October, providing 25 tons of maize and fortified vegetable oil to almost 2,500 vulnerable people in Zagnanado, including the community of Ayaba and Léonard. WFP continued distributions throughout November, targeting the most affected communes in Benin.

Walking away from the distributions with a sack of maize balanced on his head and a carton of vegetable oil, Léonard smiles. “My entire family relies on me. At least tonight I have something to bring home.”