Flooding in Cameroon is common during the rainy season, greatly impacting the northern regions. In recent years, flooding has worsened in the north and harmed access to livelihoods which has impacted those in poverty. While these natural disasters are not entirely preventable, organizations are working with Cameroon’s government to lessen their effects.
History of Flooding in Cameroon
In 2015, flooding in Cameroon displaced thousands of people. The country’s capital city, Yaoundé, as well as the large population city of Douala, are vulnerable to flooding. By August of 2015, the flooding disaster had impacted 40,000 people in those cities.
The capital itself has experienced 130 floods in the past, between the years of 1980 and 2014. All of those floods caused economic damage as well as the loss of life. Flooding in cities can also lead to disease outbreaks because bugs and bacteria can live in the still floodwater.
In 2019, flooding impacted Cameroon’s Far North region. The floods greatly impacted livelihoods because about 70% of people in the area are farmers. When the Logone River overflowed, it impacted the agriculture that occurs on the floodplain next to it. ACAPS, an organization that helps disaster responders through research, reported that the flooding affected rice production, pasturing and fishing.
The Far North is also the poorest region in Cameroon. About 75% of the population experiences greater risk during floods because poorer households often live in homes made from materials such as straw roofing. These materials are not durable long-term and are, therefore, negatively impacted by floodwater. This is not the first time the Logone river and the northern region have flooded. In 2012, a flood in the area damaged 30,000 households.
The Path to Recovery
Since 2014, The World Bank has been working on the Flood Emergency Project in Cameroon. This project came into being after flooding on the Logone in northern Cameroon. The project lowers risk from annual flooding for over 100,000 people. As a result of the project, disaster risk management and livelihoods in the region have improved.
After the 2015 floods, the government worked to decrease the number of floods that affect cities, particularly the capital. The government built a “drainage canal network” which cost about $102 million, according to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). The project aims to build a waste treatment and disposal plant as well as four more drainage canals.
“The first phase of the project helped to scale down the number of floods from 15 to three annually. But much still remains to be done in order that peripheries which are still vulnerable to floods are completely freed from related risks,” said Serge Mbarga Enama, an engineer at Yaoundé City Council, to UNDRR.
The government also looked at high flood-risk areas, demolished homes there and evicted people living in informal communities in those places. The danger with evicting people from these areas is that they lack the land titles needed to receive compensation for the demolition that would help pay for housing in low-risk flood areas. As a result, some end up returning to high flood-risk areas. Others are at risk of becoming homeless in big cities like the capital.
Aside from looking more closely at those living in high-risk areas, the government adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. It is a global agreement that would last 15 years. The goal of the framework is to raise awareness about disasters in order to reduce the effects of flooding in Cameroon.
What is Currently Happening
Since the 2019 floods, the Cameroon Red Cross Society has been responding to disasters. The organization was able to reach affected areas soon after the floods, only taking a few days. The Cameroon Red Cross provided first aid and support services, as well as kits filled with essential household items for those in need.
The Cameroon government is still involved with the 15-year Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and working to improve disaster awareness. The UNDRR reported that the program focuses on four key aspects:
To understand the risk level for disaster
To strengthen the governance of disaster risk in order to improve the management
To invest in disaster preparedness for effective response
To “Build Back Better” to recover, rehabilitate and reconstruct
Cameroon will continue working on the program until 2030.
Flooding in Cameroon has a major impact on the northern region, as well as big cities such as the capital. While floods still impact the livelihoods of people in high-risk areas, especially impacting poorer populations, the Cameroonian government and international organizations have instituted programs to reduce the impacts of flooding.
– Melody Kazel