BENIN The story of a woman from Kompa

 Benin
 Emergency Response
 19th Oct 2012

Gado Fathi lives in the village of Kompa in Benin, a small country in West Africa. She is an old woman of about 65 years. Before the floods arrived, she lived together with her grandchildren, two boys aged three and five. The two children were her dependents, and she tried to feed them using her crops of seasonal rice, millet, and okra. This agriculture allowed her, barely, to provide for the children’s needs; and she no longer hoped for much else. With the help of her neighbours Gado Fathi had been able to build herself a shelter. However, the small hut was destroyed by the terrible floods of the year 2010. It had been very difficult for her to rebuild it.

This year misfortune struck again: one night the floods came again, while she and the two children were deeply asleep. She was suddenly awakened, but most of the clothes had already been washed away. Her cookware was submerged and the structure of the shelter was already beginning to give way. She did not know what to do or where to go. Most of her belongings were already damaged beyond repair. “The rain fell almost every day, and heavily. The farm animals floated on the water and died”, she says. “The granaries were swallowed up by the water in the village. There were no boats for transport. Even though we wanted to take refuge on dry land, we had no way of moving.” Since she has lived in the village, the floods have never been that strong.

Gado Fathi began to fight the floods by herself, trying each time to bail out the water using old basins in order to have a little bit of living space in the shelter where she and her grandchildren might survive. Indeed, the house was surrounded by water and she had no help. During this almost endless fight against the water masses, she was struck for one a week by an illness that completely immobilised her. Her legs were swollen and she could no longer move. The children barely ate once a day: the lack of food became clear. Luckily, a passing neighbour offered to move them to a safer area. Her response was to help her two grandchildren, one of which had been showing signs of a strong fever in the previous 48 hours. The health centre referred the case to a more qualified clinic in the city of Malanville. But on the way to the city the boy died of the disease. In the meantime, the second boy developed visible signs of malnutrition. People joined together to help the child’s recovery in the traditional way by giving him an infused bath, because they had no more money to treat the child at the health centre.

These events happened in early September 2012, when the narrator of this story passed through the village. The old woman has found a host family but she is still not able to walk.

CARE is responding in the affected areas of Malanville, Karimama, N’Dali and Tchaourou to support people with basic relief items and clean water. During the floods in 2010, CARE Benin provided emergency relief and worked with partners and local actors to support with water, hygiene and sanitation, food distribution and shelter for 150,000 persons.

About CARE: CARE started working in Benin in 1999 and today is recognized for its education, gender-based violence, and microfinance interventions. Nearly half the population of Benin is under the age of 15, and one of the major challenges to be addressed is the improvement of the legal and political status of women in Benin. Read more about CARE's response to flooding in Benin here.

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