Imperialist media close their eyes as
Floods devastate Africa's Sahel
Published Aug 31, 2007 7:12 PM
July and August saw flooding across Africa in countries just south of the
Sahara desert, as well as in Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique. South Africa, which
is experiencing the Southern Hemisphere’s winter, has seen flooding,
too—along with freak snowfalls heavy enough to close the border between
South Africa and Lesotho for a time.
While African Web sites and newspapers, as well as the United Nations
Information Network, are filled with stories about the floods, the major
English-language media in the West have ignored this tragedy. Instead, MSNBC
ran a humorous piece Aug. 2 on snow in South Africa. The Washington Post ran a
560-word article Aug. 15.
Half a million Africans are affected. Some have lost their food stocks or seeds
for the next crop cycle. Others have seen their houses, made from dried-mud
bricks, dissolve in the heavy rain.
Normally, in the rainy season, the bricks melt a bit but people can repair them
when the sun comes out. Not this year in many places in the Sahel, a normally
semi-desert area just south of the Sahara that stretches from Senegal to
Once people lose their homes, they lose access to sanitation and drinkable
water. For example, Tintane is a small city in southeastern Mauritania where a
flash flood wiped out the water supply, sanitation and houses of two-thirds of
its people. They are living in tents and makeshift shelters, none of which have
The floods destroyed the dam, the health center and nearly 2 miles of water
The Mauritanian government appealed for international aid to rebuild the town.
Libya, Tunisia and Morocco have already promised emergency items, including
tents, food, blankets and medicine.
So far, the European and U.S. imperialist countries that have sucked out
Africa’s valuable resources ever since colonialism and the slave trade
are being conspicuously tightfisted about giving aid.
Even when aid arrives, the Mauritanian government will still have major
problems supplying the people of Tintane with water, education and health care.
As one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 154 out of 177 countries
in the United Nations Human Development Report and with a per capita income of
only $2,000 per year, Mauritania’s infrastructure even before the floods
was sorely lacking.
Besides Mauritania, the countries of Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad also
had major problems with flooding. The water didn’t relieve their droughts
since it came in torrents that couldn’t be absorbed by the soil. Lake
Lere in Chad, which is on the Cameroon border, overflowed its banks Aug. 9. As
of Aug. 15 people who lived in the area were still finding bodies and wading
through the water looking for dry land. Chad ranks 171 out of 177 countries on
Sudan is an African country often in the news lately because of the conflict in
its province of Darfur and because it has become a significant producer of oil
and sells a lot of it to China. It has used oil income to make major
investments in infrastructure and agriculture. The floods that began there in
early July and are predicted to last until mid-September have scarcely been
mentioned in the Western media.
This year the rains came earlier than expected and 500,000 Sudanese lost access
to clean water. Some 3,086 pounds of chlorine powder and 878,000 chlorine
tablets have been handed out to reduce the risk of cholera and other waterborne
diseases. The U.N. is warning that as many as 1 million Sudanese could lose
their houses and possessions and require food aid as well as water.
The northern part of Nigeria, Africa’s largest country, is also in the
Sahel and suffered from drought before this year’s flooding. Dr. Hassan
Adewusi, head of the Department of Forestry and Wild Life, explained some of
the causes of the flooding in an interview with the Daily Trust in Abuja, the
capital of Nigeria.
Adewusi said, “Drought has to do with the climate, while desertification
is aggravated by people’s activities, and if these two are combined,
where you remove the vegetation cover of a place and expose the soil to a lot
of environmental conditions, farming will become unsustainable and if farming
is unsustainable, you can think of the consequence.”
Since fuel is very expensive in northern Nigeria, as well as in most other
areas of the Sahel, farmers use wood to cook their food and heat their homes on
cold nights. This removes the vegetation covering the soil.
A report at the U.N.’s annual World Day to Combat Desertification on June
17 asserted, “By 2025, Africa could lose as much as two-thirds of its
arable land compared with 1990 ... due to climate changes produced by global
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