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U.N. moves to help thousands displaced by Benin floods

  • Story Highlights
  • 20,000 displaced by heavy rainfall, flooding in west African nation of Benin
  • U.N.: Staff deployed to Benin to help with shelter, medical, sanitation needs
  • Official: Tens of millions of dollars needed to tackle the emergency
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(CNN) -- United Nations humanitarian agencies are preparing to assist 20,000 people displaced by heavy rainfall and flooding in the west African nation of Benin.

The agencies reported that the areas around Cotonou, the commercial capital, and along the southern coastline were among the hardest hit regions.

Emergency staff has been deployed to Benin to help with shelter, medical and sanitation needs, said the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Flooding is cyclical in the country, but the rainy season this year has been devastating. Earlier this week, the government declared the first state of emergency in recent years.

"Thousands of people fleeing floodwaters are living with precarious food security, [staying with] family and in public places," Interior Minister Armand Zinzindohoue said, in a statement reported by the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN).

Flood victims are in dire need of water, food, medicine, mosquito nets and clothing, Zinzindohoue said.

Tens of millions of dollars are needed to tackle the emergency, Benin's director of civilian protection, Alfred Sohou, told the network.

"The worst of this is that we do not have reliable meteorological information for forecasting, so we do not know exactly what will come tomorrow," Sohou said.

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