The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said over 1.5 million children in Nigeria were at an increased risk of waterborne diseases, drowning and malnutrition as a result of the severe flooding in many parts of the country.
According to a statement released by the UN body, the flood, which has affected over 2.5 million adults and children in 34 out of the 36 states in the country, has displaced 1.3 million people.
Cases of diarrhoea and water-borne diseases, respiratory infections and skin diseases were also revealed to have already been on the rise.
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 October 12.
In other stats the Humanitarian Minister says the deluge injured more than 2,400 people and partially or completely destroyed over 200,000 homes. With 108,000 hectares of farmland damaged, the floods could also hurt Nigeria’s food supply. Plus 332,000 hectares of roads and infrastructure have sustained damage.
In Bayelsa, the former President’s home is submerged from the flooding, which has affected 27 of Nigeria’s 36 states.
Did I add to the fact that, in September, a dam in Cameroon, which borders Nigeria to the east, released excess water? Nigeria does not have a dam to contain the overflow, even though the two countries agreed in the 1980s that one should be built.
This is Nigeria’s worst flooding in over a decade, there will be a food crisis alongside displacement and waterborne diseases.
King Charles III, aka Omo Iya Charlie, the British monarch, has described the devastating floods that have ravaged the country in recent months as deeply saddening.
In a condolence message to President Muhammadu Buhari, the British monarch said he and his wife were “deeply saddened” about the situation. He sympathised with victims, adding that his thoughts were with those working to support the recovery efforts.
Even the United States has provided $1 million in support, but our government is at a loss on the direction to take.
It’s all too human to look for someone to blame after a huge natural disaster, but that doesn’t help anyone — certainly not the victims, the survivors or the people whose livelihoods were washed away by the masses of water within minutes.
I hardly approach things like these, with a know-it-all attitude: Nigeria has 200 million politicians, leaders and experts. Like in football, where everyone seems to be a coach, everyone is now a disaster relief expert.
So, interestingly, I am not fixated on the floods but on very important allied issues around the flood and nationhood. The floods are basically a result of rapid urban growth and poor planning that makes the issue worse. After heavy rains in urban areas, the most common cause of flooding is inadequate drainage systems and equally the almighty climate change.
The President has left for South Korea, to a bio-summit. No national address, nothing put in place. We are simply never ready.
Where are our soldiers in this humanitarian disaster? In other climes, the military would have established flood relief camps across the country, with aviation sorties flying to far-flung areas of the country to rescue thousands of stranded people.
The Nigerian Army should ordinarily be the country’s most efficient and well-resourced institution, and best positioned to carry out relief work on the scale warranted by the recent disaster. Sadly, this is not the case.
Generally speaking, we have no national frameworks, policies, plans, guidelines and risk assessments, as well as well-stocked warehouses for emergencies and revised building codes specially formulated for disaster preparedness and resilience. When we find one, they are merely limited to paper. In a practical sense, the country has never taken disaster management as a serious matter. There is hardly any work done on improving the institutions that work on disaster management.
A nation divided by the forthcoming elections along ethnic, religious and all sorts of fault lines has no participatory approach for disaster management. With a very diverse landscape, which requires different planning in different regions. Therefore, along with investing and focusing on research and policies, disaster-resilient infrastructure is an important aspect to minimize risks for the future.
The truth is that communities generally did not respond to the little emergency warning issued by government officials. Flood warnings were taken lightly and no effort was made to vacate the houses/villages/communities, etcetera. People were found stranded and engulfed in floodwater in pockets waiting for government help.
Organizational efforts at area level by the public themselves were not visible. Any emergency response mechanism at area level did not exist at all. Inhabitants were not found cooperative with regard to security measures and capacity of boats
Disciplined organization of rescue operation and control of public has not occurred, and this is not far-fetched because disaster management, which ordinarily should involve cooperative work among multiple organizations from multiple sectors, remains poor. There is an absence of a cohesive network.
The Nigerian Army is not carrying out any major operations in the flooded areas beyond pedestrian relief materials being shared.
Even when the floods recede, there will be no comprehensive review of the National Disaster Management Policy, whether in terms of strengthening it or providing complete clarity on mandates, roles and responsibilities. There will be nothing like a strategic planning network on flood response established immediately to meet periodically (preferably quarterly in ‘peace’ time) to prepare for a cohesive response.
We are never ready. Colour TV transmission was introduced first at Benue Plateau Television, Jos, in July 1974, and in India it was introduced in 1979. Decades after, we have not moved forward. We have seen growth, but there is no development. Our priorities not set right in any form. Another few years from now, we would be discussing another flood, and the same reasons would apply.
Are we ready, would our culture allow for planning for the future, and would there ever be sound emergency preparedness construct? Only time will tell.
•Dickson, PhD, a policy
analyst, writes via