The small West African nation of Benin has been ravaged by a record flood, which could cripple the county for years to come. Months of heavy rains across the country since July have caused major waterways to overflow and submerged low-lying areas.

The United Nations on Oct. 24 said it would begin a massive airlift of supplies, including thousands of tents, to assist Benin.

Cyrille S. Oguin, Benin’s ambassador to the U.S., said recently he is distraught over the situation in his homeland and is frustrated with the lack of global attention to the crisis that has left at least 50 people dead and more than 150,000 people without shelter and destroyed over 300,000 acres of farmland and nearly 12,000 tons of food.
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“Benin is a very peaceful country so we are not usually in the news,” Oguin said. “For the past 20 years, we’ve been in a very good democratic process, but unfortunately the media only pays attention certain stories.”

In addition, the floods triggered a cholera epidemic that has started to spread throughout the country. The country seeks aid, including food, medicine and shelter.

Oguin praised the U.S. government for its prompt response to the crisis, and said America is doing everything it could to provide assistance to Benin.

“The U.S. was among the first to come in and support,” he said. “the U.S. has an office there and they are among the officials who have been working hard. I’m happy that we’ve had this response already, but unfortunately they have not reached and healed everybody in the country, especially those in villages—they are suffering too much.”

Oguin hopes to bring wider awareness to the crisis, which threatens to wipe out a third of the country’s economy. Oguin said he doesn’t want his country to be forgotten, given the more widely-known natural disasters that have taken place in Haiti and Indonesia.

“We need the media to travel to Benin and have a feel of how our government is trying to cope with this and help our small villages that are suffering,” he said.

Oguin said the embassy will announce when it will be accepting donations, as there is no infrastructure in place for that right now.

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO