BANJUL, Gambia , Dec 29, 2010 (IPS) – Amie Manneh and her family lived securely in their single-bedroom home in Bundung, 15 kilometers from the capital, Banjul. Then their home was destroyed by heavy rainfall in September. Since then Amie, her husband and six children have been living in the damaged house.
“All of us sleep here, my husband and our six children,” she said, pointing at the small room – part of which is severely cracked, making it not only vulnerable to the weather but also to rats.
The Gambia experienced heavy rains throughout July, August, and September, resulting in severe floods, which caused the loss of lives, crops and livelihoods, as well as large-scale damage to infrastructure and household property.
According to Mawdo Jallow, the regional disaster management coordinator of the area, in the rural Upper River region of The Gambia, eighty percent of swamp rice fields across more than seventeen villages were destroyed. Close to 200 homes were also destroyed by floods.
“We were expecting a good harvest this year because there was enough rain, but our crops were destroyed by floods,” said the village head of Chamoi Bunda village. “Forty hectares of my village’s communal rice fields, as well as a number of individual and family farms, were all lost to the floods.”
In the village of Bantunding in Wuli, Upper River region, the floods also sparked a crocodile infestation and villagers were advised to abandon their farms. But farmers in the rural-Upper River region are not the only ones without a harvest this year, as similar situations occurred in the rural-Lower River region where heavy rains have washed crops away.
“We have no hope this year as far as harvesting is concerned,” said Pierre Bah, district head of Niani. “After all the hard work, everything has come to zero.” “We are not receiving our monthly salaries, neither are we entitled to any allowance. Our farms are our source of survival. It is our last hope,” said Mamanding Suwaneh, 67, the village head of Wassu, where over 300 hectares of rice fields were destroyed by floodwaters.
According to the executive director of the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), Essa Khan, over 34 000 people have been affected by this year’s floods.
Although he declined to give a breakdown of the impact pending the approval of the vice president. The latest country assessment conducted by the national disaster body, in collaboration with partners – including Red Cross – reveals that by the end of September,12 lives had been lost, including a teenage girl on her way from school, who was washed away by the floods.
“Over 6 000 people have been displaced and have sought refuge in neighbouring houses, schools and community structures,” the report states. The displaced population – a high proportion of whom are extremely poor and which comprises mostly of women and childre