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Silent Disaster: Red Cross Responding to Flooding in West Africa
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September 25, 2009

Although it is not the lead story on the evening news, many families in countries throughout West Africa have been displaced from their homes as excessive seasonal rains continue to exacerbate the widespread flooding of Senegal, Burkina Faso and several other countries. In response to requests from the global Red Cross network, the American Red Cross has five disaster specialists on the ground helping in the disaster response.

“The areas that are the most affected are the most vulnerable and have the highest levels of poverty,” says Steve McAndrew, one of the American Red Cross specialists working in Senegal. “The people that are affected by these floods are already struggling with living conditions.”

McAndrew is leading the Relief Emergency Response Unit (ERU) which is working with colleagues from the Danish Red Cross and the Senegalese Red Cross to assess the needs and distribute relief supplies to the most vulnerable.

Some of the items they are distributing include:

  • Water containers called jerry cans so families can collect clean water
  • Blankets
  • Kitchen kits including pots, pans, plates, knives and forks
  • Hygiene kits with soap, detergent, shampoo, toothbrush, and many of the same products most people have at home
  • Insecticide-treated nets to protect people from mosquitoes that could transmit malaria
  • Sleeping mats
  • Rehydration salts and water purification tablets
  • Shelter kits to help people repair minor damages to houses
  • Tents for people who have moved to camps

“The government in Senegal is also working hard to alleviate the affects of the floods, but besides them, the only other aid agencies we see here is the Red Cross movement,” says McAndrew.

Some of those other Red Cross teams are working on health issues to prevent disease outbreaks, providing clean water and sanitation to the affected families.

Although this disaster is not in the media spotlight, the same needs occur as the well-known disasters. Providing clean water, sanitation and a clean place to live until the waters recede and cleanup can begin, can keep a disastrous situation from becoming worse.

For more information or to setup interviews, please contact Christy Feig, Director of International Communications for the American Red Cross (feigc@usa.redcross.org or 703-203-9920).

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

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