Florence Latila remembers the destruction that flooding caused in Yaounde, the Cameroonian capital for over three decades from 1980.
“When it rained, the water could reach my waistline. It was not possible to access the area to work on many days,” Latila said.
About 2.8 million of the country’s 26 million inhabitants reside in Yaoundé. Over 130 floods struck the capital between 1980 and 2014, resulting in deaths and economic damage.
Latila, a 42-year-old warehouse worker, has been working in the Mfoundi Market for over 10 years. In the past, flooding was frequent in this area.
In downtown Yaoundé, Avenue Kennedy and Mfoundi Market were severely affected by flooding in 2018 and 2019, following the exceptionally heavy rains and the clogging of canals by mostly plastics and tyres.
“When water was coming, it would bring all the dirt. We spent a lot of time cleaning after every flood. Access for people, cars and parking was very difficult. Our products and goods were destroyed by the floods. We had to pull out the goods quickly. It greatly impacted our work, revenue and life.”
The canal and bridge in Avenue Kennedy and Mfoundi Market of Yaoundé City, financed by the African Development Bank.
Since 2005, the Government of Cameroon has been working to limit floods and their impact on socio-economic conditions in the capital, with funding from the African Development Bank, the French Agency for Development and the Global Environment Facility.
The Yaoundé City Sustainable Enhanced Drainage and Sanitation Project and the previous Yaoundé City Sustainable Sanitation Project aimed to enhance rain water management and hygiene and ensure the harmonious integration of infrastructure.
The 17 km of canals built during the first and second phases of the project on the watercourses that drain Yaoundé City have significantly reduced the frequency and impacts of flooding in the targeted part of the city.
“Since the construction of the bridge, no floods have occurred in the area. The water is not submerging us anymore. Everything is good,” Latila said, smiling.
“My feet were constantly in the water. And when the water was gone, it left mud, which attracted mosquitoes. We used to get sick often.”
In the past, the Mfoundi River would overflow every rainy season. The river, which receives approx. 80% of the city’s surface water, often burst its banks, spilling onto the surrounding land.
Herve Massa, a 30-year-old employee in a fertilizer shop in Mfoundi Market, said: “The water of the river would reach the shop and we lost plenty of products, creating huge economic losses. If it rained in the morning, it meant that we coundn’t get any clients that day. There was no access to the road when it rained. We’ve forgotten about the rain since the works were completed.”
Herve Massa, a shop employee in Yaoundé Mfoundi Market, has forgotten about the rain thanks to a project supported by the African Development Bank.
“The Yaounde Sanitation Project has reduced the number of floods in the Cameroonian capital by five times (from 15 to 3) but the fight against climate change still continues,” said Eboueme Bountsebe, Senior Water and Sanitation Specialist at the African Development Bank. “In this regard, the Bank is truly committed to building Cameroon’s resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change in Yaounde.”
The project involved the development of a flood prevention and management plan for the City of Yaoundé, including the construction of regulation basins to reduce waterflow into the Mfoundi River, and the installation of a network of hydro-meteorological measuring equipment.
Gerard Essi, the project coordinator, said: “Two phases of the project have been implemented so far, aimed to improve rainwater drainage conditions and health and hygiene conditions. Therefore, we organized several trainings on waste management and climate change but also on health. In fact, we rehabilitated three district hospitals and provided medical equipment to ensure better patient care and improve the population’s health.