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Senegal seeks long-term solution to flooding

Families are being moved from flood-prone suburbs to a new settlement 15 miles east of Dakar.

More than 1.5 million of Dakar's 2.5 million people now live in suburbs, where there are up to 10,000 people per square kilometer, making them some of the most densely populated areas in the region, Mbow said.

Diallo of the "Plan Jaxaay" said it isn't always easy to convince lifelong urbanites to leave their bustling neighborhoods for the sleepy streets of the Cite Jaxaay.

Mariyata Seck doesn't want to move. She is trading a six-bedroom home in Guediwaye for a two-bedroom row house in Jaxaay. She will live there with eight of her children, while her grown sons will have to rent rooms closer to the city. This is just one of many complaints against the initiative since it was launched amid controversy in 2006. Some flood victims thought the state was stealing their land, while others complained the Cite Jaxaay was too far out for commuters.

Still, the waiting room at the group's headquarters is almost full of people ready to sign their contracts and get keys to their new, dry homes. More people wait outside the building, hoping to get their names on the list.

As Pathe Cisse signs his contract, he says he can't find the words to express his joy, and his relief. Like Seck, Cisse moved to the lowlands of Guediwaye 20 years ago, never dreaming the water would return.

In 2005, knee-deep water invaded the home where he lived with his two wives and eight of his 19 children. The family's belongings were ruined. The children suffered from malaria, bronchitis and rashes. That year, the family was forced to abandon the house they owned free and clear and begin renting an apartment for $450 a month, a substantial chunk of Cisse's teacher's salary.

Now, he has 20 years to pay off his new home in Cite Jaxaay at about $60 a month. The state subsidizes the remaining three quarters of the cost.

"We have suffered so much, and there are so many people still living in absolutely dreadful situations, just trying to get by," Cisse said. "I'd rather live out in the bush than underwater."