Lessons of 2012 inform Red Cross response as new floods hit Nigeria

Publié: 15 octobre 2013 9:00 CET

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

Heavy seasonal rains have caused flooding across Nigeria, bringing further misery to a population which is still recovering from fatal floods in 2012, the worst floods the country had experienced in more than 40 years. According to the National Emergency Management Agency, more than 47,000 people have been affected. The states of Abia, Bauchi, Benue, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kano, Kogi and Zamfara have been hit particularly hard. In Kaduna and Katsina, the situation has been exacerbated by the collapse of earth dams.

The Nigerian Red Cross Society has completed assessments in the states of Bauchi, Kaduna, Kebbi and Zamfara to establish the needs of people who have been affected. “The floodwaters came and then went within 48 hours, causing many mud-brick homes to collapse, ruining families’ belongings,” explains Altilina Simon, Deputy Disaster Management Coordinator at the Nigerian Red Cross Society, who led the assessments.

“The population is also at risk of waterborne diseases, as the wells, which people depend on for drinking water, have been polluted by the floods. In some villages, there is a belief that putting frogs into wells will make the water safe to drink,” adds Simon. “To help correct such misconceptions, we have mobilized volunteers, who are trained in health and hygiene promotion, to pass on messages about how to properly clean water before use. They are also distributing water purification tablets.” Stagnant floodwater also provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which carry malaria.

Following the 2012 floods response, which was carried out with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the National Society is now better prepared to respond to the flooding that hits the country at this time of year, every year.

“The training Red Cross volunteers received during the floods last year is paying off, as they are again being called on to help respond to this year’s flooding,” says Simon. “Aside from health and hygiene promotion, we have also trained our volunteers on how to use the shelter kits, which they then teach to community members.” Volunteers are also helping with search and rescue, providing psychosocial support to help traumatized families work through what they have experienced, and helping to distribute relief supplies.

The Nigerian Meteorological Department has announced that more rainfall is expected, prompting concerns that the situation could worsen. The Nigerian Red Cross Society is preparing by positioning emergency relief items – such as blankets, buckets, jerry cans, kitchen sets, mosquito nets, shelter materials, sleeping mats, soap and tarpaulins – in strategic locations. A water and sanitation kit, which can provide safe drinking water for 5,000 people, is also on standby, should it be required.

The IFRC is working in partnership with the Nigerian Red Cross Society, through its country office, to ensure that assistance is brought to those affected by the current floods, and preparations are made to effectively respond if the flooding worsens.