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Early warnings reduce flood and drought risks to Niger communities and cities CREWS Impact Feature, April 2020

In the West African nation of Niger, the summer months bring the threat of torrential rains and severe flooding, which destroy hundreds of households and cause major loss of lives and livelihoods across the country – particularly for those residing along the Niger and Komadougou rivers.

More than 200,000 people are regularly at risk of being displaced during the rainy season due to overflowing rivers and landslides. In addition, almost 80% of the country is covered by the Sahara Desert, while the climatic and geographic transition into the Sahara creates enormous and unpredictable risk for water scarcity and drought.

Climate change is causing increasingly irregular rainfall, rising temperatures and desertification, which impact agricultural productivity and food insecurity. While only 12.5% of land is arable, nearly 80% of the population work in agriculture, making this sector particularly vulnerable to climate-related hazards.

In response, the Climate Risk & Early Warning Systems (CREWS) initiative is supporting and contributing to the improvement of the Government of Niger's early warning services, including enhancing its food security early warning system and establishing flood and extreme weather warnings.

The three-year CREWS project entitled “Niger Strengthening Early Warning Services” is implemented by the World Bank and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and builds upon a World Bank project that identified at-risk populations living in flood‐prone neighbourhoods of Niamey. It specifically seeks to achieve delivery of timely, impact-based warnings to at-risk populations and activate location-specific preparedness plans in Niger by 2020.

Severe Weather Toll

In July and August 2019 alone, floods killed 45 people, injured 55 and left more than 66,000 displaced, mainly across the regions of Maradi, Agadez and Zinder.

In 2016, Niger was hit by very severe flooding due to heavy summer rains created by El Niño weather patterns, which resulted in:

92,000

people displaced, according to estimates by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The regions of Agadez and Tahoua were the most affected by the floods.

95%

of the nation's potato production, which occurs in Agadez, was jeopardized.

85%

of the population's livelihoods related to agriculture and livestock, which take place in the region, were also put at risk.

110

sites, settlements and agro-pastoral hamlets were affected, according to the Government of Niger.

41,597

heads of livestock were lost across the region.

1,808

houses collapsed, affecting more than 7,000 people, and pushing these vulnerable households below the poverty line.

120

classrooms collapsed, leaving children without access to their normal education environment.

US$ 183 million

in flood damages are experienced each year by Niger's critical facilities, of which US$ 114 million in the education sector and US$ 26 million in road infrastructure.

“It was about three in the morning when a neighbour woke us, telling us to get up and leave. People were being swept away by the floods. The authorities eventually managed to contain the floods, but we had to temporarily move to the school nearby.”

-- Issaka Amadou, resident of Niamey's Kirkisoye neighborhood.

Media coverage of the 2019 floods in Niger captures the devastation to lives and livelihoods.

URGENT ACTION built on coordinated expertise

The CREWS Niger project brings together Niger government experts with World Bank / GFDRR and WMO technical experts. It has made significant advances to enable local access to predictions and forecasts made available by global and regional specialised centres.

These focus on the areas identified by the World Bank and Government of Niger project as exposed to flood risk, for riverine floods, such as when the Niger river overflows its embankments, and for flash floods triggered by extreme rain events.

“By building on the Disaster Risk Management and Urban Development Project, funded by the World Bank and managed by the Government of Niger, the CREWS Niger project is enhancing information on vulnerable populations that allow better targeting of the flood warning systems and improving risk-mitigation infrastructure.”

– Jean Baptiste Migraine, Technical Coordinator, WMO

“Through CREWS, Niger has a three-year plan that will result in standard operating procedures and strengthened capacity for flood early warning and response that can be extended to other hazards as well.”

– Magagi Laouan, Minister of Humanitarian Action and Disaster Management (MAHGC)

Enhancing technical capacities

The CREWS Niger project contributes to improving the capacity of meteorological and hydrological service technicians to carry out data collection and processing, and the production and dissemination of early warning information to increase the preparedness and responsiveness of communities in flood-prone areas. Through this work, a significant reduction in loss of lives and livelihoods is hoped to be realized.

“The World Bank supports the CREWS Niger project by providing climate early warning technical expertise to support specific areas based on the existing legal framework for disaster risk management in the country.”

– Koffi Hounkpe, Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist, World Bank

In 2019, CREWS supported advancements in early warning systems and services in Niger through, among other outputs:

66

local teams trained on disaster and local impact assessments.

600

women trained on disaster preparedness across 8 regions of Niger.

265

administrative managers (including mayors) trained on the topics of municipal preparedness and emergency response planning.

In addition, CREWS supported:

  • Establishment of the Operational Centre for Watch, Alert and Crisis Conduct, implemented by the government's Directorate General of Civil Protection.
  • Training of meteorology and hydrological technicians with the National Hydrological Service on the hydromet database, while capacity building was carried out in support of the weather, water and climate services. This improved the quality of weather and hydrological bulletins produced and disseminated for the benefit of the population.

At the policy level, a decree was adopted in 2019 establishing a broad national early warning and security risk response mechanism that includes risks from natural disasters as well as broader health and social threats. This built on the 2018 adoption of The National Alert Code, defining the role of meteorological, hydrological, civil protection and other services in the early warning system, as well as the broadcast of safety instructions to the population by radio and TV services and mobile phone operators.

gender-responsive Digital access to weather predictions

Gender-responsiveness is key to effective early warning systems, and is an important feature of the CREWS Niger project. In 2019, terms of reference were developed to sensitize women on early and rapid warning systems in Niamey and 50 locations around the country. Today, more than 600 women have been trained.

Following the trainings, the women set up early warning WhatsApp groups, with each group having a woman leader who manages the group and shares information with members.

Another WhatsApp group is set up at the Ministry of Humanitarian Action, with all information relating to disaster risk management in the country shared with group members. Everyday, the National Directorate of Meteorology publishes weather bulletins to the group, reaching thousands of mobile phone users across the country.

In 2019, CREWS supported the digital communication of advance weather advisories by facilitating access to higher internet speed, to allow for the effective download of global and regional models, including precipitation predictions. This resulted in the strengthening of hydrological monitoring and forecasting capacities of Niger's Directorate General of Civil Protection, which are also available online at the website of the National Directorate of Meteorology.

Looking forward

The Sudano Sahelian Climate Outlook Forum has predicted a wetter than average overall rainy season for the Southern part of Niger (more info). This increases the country's need for effective early warnings to avoid significant loss of lives, housing and livelihoods, in line with a risk of flooding higher than normal.

The CREWS Niger project will continue to build on the advancements made, and its support of the Government of Niger to enhance its early warning systems and services, to train regional and town leaders in preparedness and response, and to build community awareness and capacity – all towards a reduction in loss of lives.

Photos courtesy of: Google Earth, UNICEF/Asselin, UNICEF/Gilbertson, UNICEF/Phelps, Edoardo Fiorillo, NASA, CREWS, Jean-Baptiste Migraine, Googe Earth, WMO, Koffi Hounkpe, CREWS/Jennifer Ferguson-Mitchell, Niger National Meteorological Directorate, Ooy- Ooy.

Made possible through the generous support of these CREWS Members:

The Government of Canada also provides support for CREWS projects directly to WMO.

CREWS Implementing Partners:

CREWS partners with and/or contributes to:

© 2020 Climate Risk & Early Warning Systems (CREWS)