By Gabriel Dike
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Friday warned that more than 2.5 million people in Nigeria are in need of humanitarian assistance, 60 percent of which are children and are at increased risk of waterborne diseases, drowning and malnutrition due to the most severe flooding in the past decade.
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.
The UN agency said cases of diarrhea and water-borne diseases, respiratory infection, and skin diseases have already been on the rise. In the northeastern 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 noting that rains are expected to continue for several weeks, and humanitarian needs are also expected to rise.
“Children and adolescents in flood-affected areas are in an extremely vulnerable situation,” said Cristian Munduate, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria. “They are particularly at risk of waterborne diseases and emotional and psychological distress. UNICEF is working closely with the Government and other partners to provide life-saving assistance to those who are most in need.”
UNICEF further revealed that 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,” it added.
According to UNICEF’s Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI), Nigeria is considered at ‘an 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 climates and environmental shocks combined with high levels of underlying child vulnerability, due to inadequate essential services, such as water and sanitation, healthcare, and education.
The agency said it 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 centers, and learning kits and cholera kits.
It added: “With additional support, UNICEF can scale up its response in other states to provide lifesaving 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.”