Nigeria: Widows appreciate Red Cross support

Published: 7 August 2013 12:35 CET

By David Fogden, IFRC, and Victoria Madamidola, Nigerian Red Cross Society

“It is the first time I had witnessed such a flood,” explains Rebecca Nathaniel, a 45-year-old widow and mother of six. Rebecca lives in Odugwu, Kogi State, a village that was badly affected by the worst floods in Nigeria in more than 40 years.

“The floods arrived at night, but I was able to escape by tractor with my children to Idah town where I took refuge in a school with lots of families from many other communities that had also been flooded,” she says.

Rebecca and her family stayed in Idah, 10 kilometres from their home, until November, getting by on food they received from local residents and government rations.  “When I returned, and saw what had happened, I was crying, my children were crying,” Rebecca recalls. “My house had collapsed and the crops on my farm were ruined.” 

Rebecca was able to salvage her zinc roof, and the Nigerian Red Cross and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have provided her with materials and labour to help her build a cement block base to her home. The Nigerian Red Cross Society and the IFRC are helping 100 households in three communities in Kogi State, whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged by the floods.

The cement base will help make the house more resilient should the village be affected by flooding in the future, using practices that local people commonly use to protect their homes, but at the same time improving them so the houses are better able to resist the forces of nature.

“God bless those who have helped bring this support,” says an elated Rebecca. “I am so happy and appreciate this support. I don’t think this house will collapse again. I will now be able to concentrate on my farm, so that I can earn money to put my children through school.”

Madam Lydia Ukwela has also benefited from Red Cross support after her house and farm, which was her only means of livelihood, were destroyed. Lydia is a widow and mother to six children. She moved to Idah where she stayed in a camp for internally displaced people provided by the Kogi State government.

“I thank the Red Cross for coming to my aid because I never thought I would have been able to build another house. My new house is strong. It can withstand the strongest flood.”

James Adobu, has been community leader in Odowgu for 17 years, and was born and raised in the village. “I have never seen floods like it,” he grimaces. “I was so unhappy to see so many of my people suffering, but the Red Cross has helped people rebuild, and we are so glad for the support.”

The IFRC, in collaboration with the Nigerian Red Cross Society, has revised its plans. Operations will now continue throughout the remainder of 2013, focusing on efforts which will result in communities much better equipped to cope with future flooding.