By Moustapha Diallo
The scars left by devastating flooding in Nigeria are still raw in many communities. Floodwaters have receded but now a new disaster is unfolding. The few who are returning to their villages have found them smashed by the force of the water. Most look like phantom villages – homes reduced to piles of stones, wood and zinc sheeting.
In the village of Ozahi, in Kogi State, all the houses have been destroyed or severely damaged by the heavy rains. Mohamed Ousman, a 47-year-old father of eight, is the first in his village to return home. Two months ago, 1,000 people lived here.
“I have lost everything including my ten-year old child in the flooding,” Mohamed Ousman says, as he tries to salvage some iron sheeting and wood from his collapsed house. “The rains have destroyed our farms, our supplies and all our belongings. Not even our livestock has been spared.”
More than 125 families from his village are now sheltering in a primary school in Ozi, in Kogi State. Sleeping conditions are dire. Four or five families share one small room with mosquitos buzzing around their heads. They all want to go home, but do not know how. Without money and assistance it will be difficult to resume their lives.
In the local government guest camp, not far from Ozi, a further 35 displaced families are also fighting to survive. Aid provided by the government and the Nigerian Red Cross Society is not enough to cover their needs.
“Everything is lacking: food, latrines, shelter, water and household items,” says Mohamed Momo, spokesman for the families sheltered in Ozi camp.
In Late August, Nigeria experienced the worst flooding in 40 years; a disaster that affected 33 of 36 states. At the height of the crisis, rising waters drove more than 2 million people from their homes.
The Nigerian Red Cross Society, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, is helping. An emergency appeal has been launched seeking 3.4 million Swiss francs to support 50,000 people for one year. Relief items including shelter kits and tarpaulins are being distributed, and first aid and psychosocial support is also being provided.
But the disaster is far from over. Thousands of families remain displaced and sheltered in camps and schools. It will take months for them to get back on their feet. With emergency stocks being depleted, assistance is needed now to ensure that happens.