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By Lisa Schlein
Geneva
26 October 2007

The United Nations is launching an emergency appeal for $5.4 million to help more than 90,000 flood victims in Burkina Faso.  The United Nations says these floods, the worst in decades, have caused widespread devastation to peoples' homes, crops and livelihoods.  Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

More than 12 countries in East and West Africa have been hit by some of the worst flooding in decades.

The United Nations reports dozens of people have been killed and injured by the floods, 28,000 people have been made homeless and vast agricultural lands and crops have been washed away.

A U.N. spokeswoman, Elizabeth Byrs, says bridges, roads and other infrastructure have been damaged and will have to be rebuilt.

"We will have to use this money for the urgent needs related to livelihoods of the population and also rehabilitation of the basic services  - health centers, roads, bridges, sheltering people, reconstructing their houses," she said.

Byrs says Burkina Faso is entering the post-crisis period, which, in many ways, will be worse than the immediate aftermath of the floods. 

She says the rains will stop soon.  And this, she says is the time when aid agencies will have to carefully monitor health and sanitation.

When the waters begin to recede, she says there is a heightened risk of waterborne diseases, malaria and other illnesses.  She says aid workers will have to be on the lookout for the potential outbreak of epidemics. 

"And this is a very critical period where we have to monitor carefully the situation for the most vulnerable - for children, for elderly," she added.  "Not only a problem of malnutrition might appear, because they have lost their food stocks, but also with regard to the health situation of the most vulnerable." 

Byrs says many of the homeless people are living in schools and other public buildings.  But, she says most are staying with relatives and friends.  She says these host families are very poor and caring for the flood victims is a drain on their limited resources. 

She says money from the appeal also will be used to alleviate some of the financial burden from these host families.

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