Nigerians displaced by floods are in dire need of help

Nigerians displaced by floods are in dire need of help


It was pitch black when the water came, forcing Mother Fortune Lawrence and her eight children to jump onto a makeshift boat and flee their home.

For the past two weeks they have been living in the direst of conditions near Ahoada, Rivers State, in a school now overcrowded with more than a thousand people displaced by Nigeria’s worst flooding in a decade.

“I was afraid of dying in the water,” Lawrence said, surrounded by other families. “We have nothing here. Not enough food, no diapers, no mosquito nets.”

Flooding is common during Nigeria’s rainy season, but this year more than 600 people have died and 1.3 million others have been forced to flee their homes, according to the latest government figures.

One of the worst-hit informal camps for those who managed to escape has sprung up in southern Rivers State.

According to resident Obed Onyekachi, some people are still stuck in flooded towns and villages.

It was “under no circumstances possible to come here,” said the 32-year-old with anger in his voice. “How many of our brothers were swallowed up by the water, have disappeared?”

“Crops have been destroyed. We have no more hope. We must face starvation.”

– Contaminated water –

Traveling across the state is a challenging task and makes it difficult to provide assistance.

A tanker truck overturned in the flood waters on the main road and local residents said several people died in the area where there are strong currents.

Others have managed to cross by wading through waist-deep water.

Alamin Mohamed, 25, tried to travel on his motorbike but said he had been stuck on the road for seven days.

“We don’t know how long it will take,” he said.

The roof of a church could be seen in the murky water between high-voltage lines. Wooden rafts carried large groups of people around.

UN Food and Agriculture Organization representative in Nigeria Fred Kafeero warned this week that the floods had increased the risk of outbreaks of diseases such as cholera.

Displaced people lie huddled on the ground at an elementary school in Ihuike, a municipality in Ahoada. About 50 people sit in each classroom.

A group of local volunteers clean up and distribute the scanty food supplies received from local authorities.

“We need a clean environment. We’re very cautious, but we’re exhausted. Even the water from the well is contaminated,” said a volunteer, who asked not to be identified.

– Health risks –

Ten days ago, Rivers State Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike approved 1 billion naira (about US$2.3 million) for emergency relief efforts for flood victims.

Nevertheless, the need is immense. In one of the informal camps, women told AFP they had nothing to do with menstrual hygiene. “We don’t have a handkerchief for that,” said one woman.

Children lined up at the entrance to the camp, waiting to be seen by women wearing surgical gloves.

They received an oral HIV test, nurse Bukky Chika Emeyi explained. In case of a positive result, they need a blood test at the hospital.

“Their living conditions are bad. The risk of transmission is high,” said the 27-year-old, who works at local charity IHVN.

“Women give birth assisted by other women who are untrained and untrained, using unsterilized tools.”

More to explorer