A group of women paddle their dugout canoe on the Niger River. (AP Photo/Clement N\'taye)

Dakar -

At least 44 people have been killed and thousands more made homeless after heavy floods caused the Niger River to overflow earlier this week, flooding parts of the capital Niamey and other areas, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday.

Up to 200,000 people have been affected by the floods, Niger's government has said. It has declared a state of emergency and called for urgent food aid for 2,000 displaced people.

Floods have also affected parts of Burkina Faso, damaging thousands of hectares of crop fields there and forcing many from their homes, the WFP said.

Earlier this month, at least 30 people were killed in central Nigeria's Plateau state, when floods hit in the wake of torrential rains. The floods there were deemed the worst in 50 years by a local senator.

Additionally, seven people were reported killed in suburbs of the Senegalese capital, Dakar, in mid-August, after flood waters overflowed wells and surged through the streets.

West Africa suffers from devastating floods each rainy season, particularly in low-lying areas such as parts of southern Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Benin, Sierra Leone and Senegal.

In 2009, floods devastated parts of several West African countries, killing about 100 people and displacing hundreds of thousands more.

Aid agencies, including the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), have been leading preparation drives ever since, but poor infrastructure and soil quality have hampered efforts. - Sapa-dpa