Torrential rains and flooding have affected 600,000 people in 16 West African nations, the United Nations reported Tuesday.
The worst hit have been Burkina Faso, Senegal, Ghana and Niger, said Yvon Edoumou, a spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Senegalese capital, Dakar. So far, 159 people have died, he said.
Edoumou said removing water from flooded areas is a top priority, but powerful pumps are in short supply.
“Some people refused to leave their homes so they are living in floodwaters,” he said.
The United Nations has not yet received reports of waterborne diseases, but Edoumou said a real threat exists of diarrhea or, worse, cholera.
Private aid agencies are working with the United Nations to distribute food and other emergency items. Oxfam International is assessing the crisis in Burkina Faso, where 150,000 people have been affected in the capital, Ouagadougou, and key infrastructure has been damaged, including a central hospital, schools, bridges and roads. The flooding in Burkina Faso is the worst in 90 years.