By Nwakpa O. Nwakpa and Moustapha Diallo
Three months after devastating floods swept through Nigeria, the initial shock has passed. However, reality is now settling in for thousands of people fighting to rebuild their lives. Their needs are immense and only a few organizations, including the Nigerian Red Cross Society, are paying attention to them.
Mohamed Momo, a resident of Ozahi village in Kogi State, and a 58 year old father of 12 said he lost everything. “All my crops were destroyed. I had one hectare of yam and two hectares of maize,” he says. “My village was submerged for days. As a result, all the food I had stored was destroyed.”
With crops and livestock destroyed in flood-affected areas across the country, people are not getting enough to eat. Approximately 1,000 people lived in Ozahi village before the floods. Now, most are sheltered in camps, surviving on charity and foraging for food. Provisions from the government and nation Red Cross society are simply not enough to keep people from going hungry.
Mariam Usman, a mother of six who now lives in one of the camps in Kogi state, has resorted to reducing the number of times she feeds her family every day, but her worries go beyond today. “I wonder how we are going to survive the next year, since the floods destroyed what I had planted on my farm,” she says.
The real danger does not really stop with the loss of farmlands and livestock by these suffering farmers, but extends to the entire country and beyond, as some neighbouring countries like Niger, depend on imports from Nigeria, in terms of available foodstuffs.
“These farmers supply their farm produce to southern and northern Nigeria; I am sure you know that some our neighbouring African countries depend on Nigeria’s farm” says Alice Ogendegbe, the acting executive Secretary of State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), in Kogi state.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) had earlier expressed fear of the looming hunger that the country may suffer if not well-managed.
The Nigerian Red Cross Society, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), is planning for the months ahead. Part of that plan may include distributing improved seeds and tools for next farming season.
“Getting farmers back to their fields as soon as possible is the only way to ensure that the looming food insecurity does not last long,” says Bello Hamman Diram. “We are ready to work together with other organizations to make this happen.”
“The Nigeria Red Cross Society, with our support, plans on embarking on a cash transfer programme to help farmers revive their work as soon as possible,” says Stephen McAndrew, IFRC head of emergency operations in Nigeria. “The provision of money to the most affected communities will help them to buy seeds or assets essential for the recovery of their livelihoods.”