THE United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that more than 1.5 million children are at risk of malnutrition and drowning as a result of the devastating floods in Nigeria.
“More than 2.5 million people in Nigeria are in need of humanitarian assistance, 60 per cent of whom are children and are at increased risk of waterborne diseases, drowning and malnutrition due to the most severe flooding in the past decade,” UNICEF said.
UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Cristian Munduate, in a statement on Friday, noted that the floods, which have affected 34 out of the 36 states in the country, have displaced 1.3 million people.
“Over 600 people have lost their lives and over 200,000 houses have either been partially or fully damaged.
“Cases of diarrhoea and water-borne diseases, respiratory infection and skin diseases have already been on the rise, a statement issued by the UNICEF Communication Specialist, Dr Geoffrey Njoku, said.
Munduate noted that in the north-eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe alone, a total of 7,485 cases of cholera and 319 associated deaths were reported as of 12 October.
“As rains are expected to continue for several weeks, humanitarian needs are also expected to rise.
“Children and adolescents in flood-affected areas are in an extremely vulnerable situation,” Cristian Munduate warned, adding that they are particularly at risk of water-borne diseases and emotional and psychological distress.
The statement reads in part: “UNICEF is working closely with the government and other partners to provide life-saving assistance to those who are most in need.
“The floods are adding another layer of complexity to an already precarious humanitarian situation in the country.
“Immediate priority needs for children include health, water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as shelter and food.
“Additional funding and resources are required to respond to growing needs and to sustain ongoing humanitarian interventions, with a focus on the most vulnerable, including children with disabilities.
“According to UNICEF’s Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI), Nigeria is considered at ‘extremely high risk’ of the impacts of climate change, ranking second out of 163 countries.
“Children in ‘extremely high risk’ countries face a deadly combination of exposure to multiple climate and environmental shocks combined with high levels of underlying child vulnerability, due to inadequate essential services, such as water and sanitation, healthcare and education.
“To date, UNICEF has supported the government response in three affected states – Jigawa, Niger and Kaduna – including through the provision of cash assistance, distribution of cholera kits, government-led mobile health teams, temporary learning centres and learning kits and cholera kits.
“With additional support, UNICEF can scale up its response in other states to provide life-saving medical equipment and essential medicines, chlorination of water and sanitation supplies, as well as to support the prevention of and response to sexual and gender-based violence.”
The floods ravaged many parts of the country, leaving devastations in their trail.
Like in many other places across the country where houses were submerged and other property and businesses destroyed, the victims in Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta and Anmabra states have continued to lament even as they try to pick up the pieces of their lives.
Tife Owolabi is a journalist. He is the chairman of the Federated Correspondents Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Bayelsa State Council. He is also a victim of the flood disaster.
In an interview with Saturday Tribune, he said: “If I count my losses to this ravaging flood, you will pity me. My car is stuck at a flooded mechanic shop. I am injured and I lost a drone worth N800,000. My house has been submerged and my family members are now refuges. The psychological effect is worse than the physical effects.
“I agonise over the ordeal my family is going through. But in spite of everything, I give thanks God for sparing our lives.”
The Field Officer of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Niger Delta Resource Centre, Morris Alagoa, said: “Even though the ERA office is flooded and my family is also displaced, we try our best to go to the flooded ERA office to send reports and pictures of the disaster to ensure that the government intervenes and ameliorates the sufferings of the people.
“The Federal Government of should take full responsibility for the monster flood as NiMET’s continuous predictions while doing nothing about the abandoned dam is unacceptable.
“Our advocacy is not because we would become direct victims but in spite of the fact that we are affected now, we stand resolute in ensuring our advocacy continues. Overwhelmed by the flood, I have been battling to remain afloat.
“All my family members slept on tables and chairs last night, including dining tables and plastic tables. Two family members and I slept at the office, also on tables, as there was no alternative.”
About 94 communities across 14 local government areas in Cross River State are affected by the floods.
According to data obtained from the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), the affected communities are in Obubra Ikom, Odukpani, Ogoja Yakurr, Calabar and Calabar Municipality.
Other affected local government areas include Bakassi, Biase, Abi, Boki and Bekwarra. SEMA indicated that Obanliku and Yala local government areas were also affected by the floods.
Some of the victims explained their plights to Saturday Tribune.
“I am Mr Sunday Oyama. I am from Ogurude community in Obubra Local Government Area. I am the vice chairman of my community. The floods dealt with us severly. Presently, our yam, melon, sugarcane, rice and cassava farms have been washed away.
“In one day, we lost about four persons who were trying to leave the community on a local boat. So many houses have been destroyed. As I talk to you, the state and federal governments have not done anything to help us. Our people are starving. We now go to Ochorn and Iyamoyong, which were not affected by the floods, to buy food.
“It is as if we have been abandoned. We depend on these farms to send our children to school, but it is terrible that we may be unhappy for a long time due to these floods. We need food and we need our houses fixed so that we don’t remain homeless.”
Also speaking, a rice and cassava farmer, Osam Anthony, explained that: “Floods have swept away our farms. All the cassava and rice that I planted have been washed away.
“This is the third phase of the floods this year in this place. Our hope for this year’s panting season is dashed. Let help be sent to us so that next year, we can cultivate again. I cultivate rice and cassava. I have a wife and children. It has been over a month now and it has not been easy taking care of them. Alhough I didn’t lose anyone, my livelihood is gone. I need help.”
Mrs Evelyn Otamavoro of Oviri-Olomu in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State said: “We usually have flood but not like this one. The flood has destroyed my farms and cassava plantation.
“I went to my farm and the water reached up to my neck. I had to swim back home. We are lucky to have harvested some of our cassava before the flood.
“The flood water entered our compound and our houses on Sunday, October 16. We woke up that day soaked in the water. I had to quickly gather the few things I had left which were basically clothes and start looking for an apartment that same day because there was no way to cook for my three children as everywhere was full of water.”
Another victim, Mrs Ese Obadjurie from Evwreni, Ughelli North Local Government Area, said: “We were chased out of our homes by the flood. My community is full of water and that was the reason why we were brought to this primary school to use as a camp.
“We were brought here yesterday. They relocated us but there are not enough facilities here. We are pleading with the Federal Government and the state government to come to our aid.
“Water has been in my house for almost a week now. We have been here since yesterday. We need food, light and water. We have members of more than three communities here.
“It is about two weeks now since water has been in my community. They had been telling us about this camp for about a week but we started moving in yesterday.
“They should make what they are providing enough for us so that there won’t be fight and commotion.”
In Anambra State, some of those displaced by the flood have been in a makeshift shelter they provided for themselves, expecting help from the government.
Such is the condition of about 2,000 people staying inside bushes in Nsugbe, Anambra East Local Government Area, who are facing challenges that include hunger and starvation.
Saturday Tribune correspondent who visited the area to ascertain the situation observed that Nsugbe community is situated in the upland but one out of the ten villages that make up the community, Abba, is very close to the Omabala River.
Due to the topography, people from Nsugbe and neighbouring communities like Anam, Umueri, Igbariam, especially where they have farm lands, settle as farmers,.
They did their farming like other years until flood submerged their farmlands, houses and other property. They were therefore forced to move into bushes in the upland in Abba village, where they made makeshift shelters with nylon and dried grasses where they live for now.
It was a sight to behold as the occupants, men, women and children numbering over 2,000, were scattered across various camps looking helpless.
One of the displaced persons, Mr Nnamdi Okoye, spoke to Saturday Tribune. He said they were exposed as all kinds of wild animals attacked them at will. According to him, the structure currently housing his family was built with nylon and dried grasses.
“I am appealing to government at all levels to come and assist us with relief materials, especially food and potable water,” he said.
Other victims, Chioma Nnalue and Ikechukwu Anago, regretted that they were at the risk of hunger with their farm produce, mainly yams and cassava, now under water. They said they have no place to go return to when the flood recedes.
A native of the community, Mr Chidi Obiudu, said he was shocked at the level of devastation caused by the flood, even as he lamented the hardship the displaced persons were passing through in the bush.
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