CRS in Burkina Faso

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Massive Rainfall Floods Burkina Faso Capital

By Michael Hill

Catholic Relief Services has sent $250,000 in emergency funding to help those affected by flooding that has driven more than 100,000 people from their homes in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. A week after record-breaking rainfall, some 40,000 are still unable to find shelter with friends or relatives and are crowded into public buildings including schools and church buildings.

The CRS money, which comes from funds contributed by the W. O'Neil Foundation and other CRS supporters, will go for a variety of programs designed to ensure that those affected get food, shelter and decent sanitation in the midst of this devastation.

Working in partnership with Caritas Burkina, CRS will provide 3,000 families with $50 vouchers that can be used to buy housing materials and other items needed to reconstruct damaged homes. Priority will go to households headed by women.

Flooding in Ouagadougou

On September 1, 2009, the capital area of Burkina Faso received about 10 inches of rain in about 12 hours, causing flooding that affected more than 150,000 people. Photo by CRS staff

CRS also plans to distribute food to more than 15,000 of those displaced. The bulgar, lentils and oil were provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development. CRS will provide Catholic parishes housing the displaced with money for cooking fuel and hot meals.

Hygiene and Sanitation Key

To combat the possibility of disease caused by lack of sanitation, CRS is promoting good hygiene, rehabilitation and construction of toilets and washing areas, and proper management of water facilities. In addition, CRS will distribute 30 large water storage tanks to sites around the city.

"Many of the sites for displaced people are crowded and waster isn't properly disposed of," says Jean Philippe DeBus, CRS' regional technical advisor for water and sanitation. "If nobody does anything, the risk remains high for an outbreak of diarrheal diseases."

As a major storm stalled over the city, more than 10 inches of rain poured down on Ouagadougou in a 12-hour period, breaking a record that had stood since 1919. The flooding was particularly devastating in poorer areas: the shantytowns around the city's periphery and neighborhoods along drainage canals. Houses built of mud bricks have collapsed and the national hospital was flooded.

"Many of the families that lost everything were farmers who grew vegetables along the banks of the canals and dikes in Ouagadougou," says CRS Burkina Faso Country Representative Debbie Shomberg. "They not only lost their homes and belongings, but also their livelihoods."


CRS has been in Burkina Faso since 1960, shortly after its independence from France, when the country was known as Upper Volta. Starting with humanitarian and food aid, CRS now supports a wide variety of agriculture, education, health and microfinance programs in this West African country that is home to 15 million people.

Michael Hill is CRS' communications officer for sub-Saharan Africa. He is based at the agency's headquarters in Baltimore.

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