By Nwakpa O. Nwakpa and Moustapha Diallo
Mohamed Momo, 58, lives in the village of Ozahi, in Kogi State, and still finds it difficult to find the words to describe the nightmare he and his neighbours have lived through since heavy rains caused the local river to burst its banks in late August.
“Floodwaters invaded our houses and our village suddenly became a huge lake. We left with nothing in the middle of the night, as our main concern was to save our lives,” he says. The water was so high, villagers had to use canoes to leave their homes.
Mohamed is one of 400,000 people in 11 states in Nigeria who are struggling to recover from the worst flooding in 40 years. Several thousand people are currently living in tented communities, while others have crammed into schools, waiting for the support that will enable them to go home. Mohamed is one of them. “I have no means of rebuilding my house,” he says.
The threat of hunger is also looming in many communities affected by floods. Countless hectares of yam – a dietary staple for local people – and reserves of cereals have been ruined by the floods. Many livestock also died, seriously affecting livelihoods across the region. Clean water is in short supply, meaning the risk of disease is also becoming a concern.
Umar Abdu Mairiga, Head of the Disaster Management Unit, at the Nigerian Red Cross Society, said the organization, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is addressing some of the immediate needs. “We have decided to focus on water, sanitation and hygiene, health, temporary shelter, and distribution of relief materials to help meet the immediate needs of affected people in our 11 target states,” he says.
Stephen McAndrew, IFRC Head of Emergency Operations in Nigeria, says that needs in the region are so enormous that no one organization can provide solutions. “We need partnerships and funding, not only to respond to the emergency, but also to support longer-term interventions to increase community resilience,” he says.
The IFRC has launched an emergency appeal of 3.4 million Swiss francs (3.6 million US dollars) to support the relief operations. Funds raised will support 50,000 people for one year.