Shola Oyeyipo visited relief camps in Kogi State. He writes about the stories of pregnant women forced into labour by the flood and the sick children waiting in line for medical attention
She pushed her way through the flood. She felt a deep pain inside her. She cried each step of the way. Philomena Ogedu was in labour to deliver her child, but she’s trapped in the rage of the flood in Lokoja. The sight of the flood forced her into labour. She gave birth to a baby boy inside the boat that came for her rescue. She said, “The sight of the flood and the fear that came with it forced me into labour and I have been in labour walking through the flood for 2 hours.”
Ogedu’s story has changed the story of woe from Lokoja relief camps in the aftermath of the flood.
“It is not all about woes, we have added to the population of Nigeria as six of our women successfully gave birth to children,” Said the paramount ruler of Ibaji, Chief John Egwumi.
When our correspondent visited Our Lady of Mercy Hospital owned by the St. Boniface Cathedral, a Catholic mission, which commenced relief effort that provided medical aid for the displaced people just before the government’s intervention came along, it was an interesting story of child births as some of the flood victims take turn to tell their story.
One of the most pathetic stories is that of Mrs. Philomena Ogedu who delivered her baby boy in the boat on Sunday, September 30, 2012, when she and some of her family members that have been trapped at Ibaji were being rescued to the relief camp at Idah. She was swimming in the flood under labour and she travelled about two hours before the rescue boat in which her child was later delivered arrived.
Narrating her ordeal, the 21 year old Ogedu who lived at Ichala - Ajode - Ibaji said her labour came as a result of the trauma she faced trying to escape the surging water: “When I swam some distance, I got tired and I told my mother who was also in the water with me that I was tired. But, she encouraged me to keep trying, promising that we would soon get help.”
Her husband, Mr. Victor Ogedu, a farmer said he was not in the boat when his wife gave birth: “I was inside the bush when I was called. I’m very happy because God helped us to save my wife and my first child despite the harsh situation she went through.”
One of the rescue workers who brought Ogedu to the hospital described the circumstance in which the child was born. She said, “ants and other dirty particles were all over the baby’s body when we got there and saw the mother and the baby inside a boat, so we quickly rushed them to the church’s hospital for immediate medical attention.”
The Coordinator of the Catholic Church Flood Victim Rescue Mission, Reverend Father Elias Ojoma named the boy Moses because of the circumstance of his birth on the river.
But for Mrs. Grace Ewuje, another pregnant woman caught in the flood from Ojebe – Ejule in Ibaji local government area, who also had her second child same Sunday morning, it was relatively different. She experienced her forced labour, after she had arrived at the Idah relief camp and subsequently had a boy.
“Though I was expected to have the baby about three weeks later but I started feeling a discomfort in my stomach this morning and I was brought here (hospital), where I gave birth to my baby boy”, Ewuje explained.
She noted that there was no complication after the childbirth and that the State government has been taking care of her and her baby boy. “I will be returning to the camp when I’m discharged from the hospital since my husband and I have nowhere else to go for now,” she added.
Unfortunately, another woman who would have increased the number of childbirth to seven had a child delivered along the way, but she died with the baby in a complication of the childbirth before she could be rescued to the hospital for good medical care, which saved Ogedu and her boy.
At Our Lady of Mercy Hospital, there are many women waiting in line for medical care. One of them is Comfort Omachi who is carrying a five months pregancy. With severe stomach discomfort she lay helplessly on her sick bed. Her first child, Ojochegbe is beside her. He is also suffering from dysentery. “We really need help”, Comfort stated looking forlorn on her sick bed.
According to Comfort, her husband Joseph Omachi, a farmer, can no longer go to the farm because his entire farmland, a source of livelihood has been washed off by the flood.
There is also the Atule family displaced from their home in Ibaji, but now takes refuge in Idah. Mrs. Atule cuddled her one year old sick daughter, Ojone Atule whose sickness began the night before the flood.
Her husband, Mr. Joel Atule said: “We have nothing else left except her. I look forward to her recovery. I think she is sick because of the stress of movement from our village in Ejule to Idah.”
As the flood ravages some parts of Kogi State displacing families, the greatest challenge facing those saddled with the responsibility of assisting the victims has been how to curtail the potential negative health hazards that may be associated with the natural disaster, especially at the relief camps set up to care for the displaced persons.
In an interview with THISDAY, the Kogi State Deputy Governor and Chairman, State Emergency Management Authority (NEMA), Architect Yomi Awoniyi said that, “the state is concerned and doing all that is possible to avoid the outbreak of epidemics”. But, lives are already being lost and forced labour is being recorded at Our Lady of Mercy Hospital and elsewhere around the relief camps.
The Liaison Officer I (pro term chairman), Ibaji Local Government Area (LGA), Mr. David Ogwu, confirmed death rate at four persons among the flood victims. He said, “One woman died yesterday (Saturday, September 29, 2012), another died at Ibaji, when we are trying to rescue and bring them to Idah. Two children died of sickness too at the camp. It is so saddening”
While government, NGOs and individuals continue to express worries over the susceptibility of those in the camps, THISDAY observation has shown that women and children are the most vulnerable because there are more of them in the various camps than the men.
Against the background of the new challenges facing the people and the need to support government to take care of the affected persons, individuals are being urged to provide relief materials to the Kogi State flood victims affected by the devastating flood that has left thousands homeless.
The wife of Kogi State Governor, Hajia Alima Wada Idris, said there is urgent need for Nigerians to assist the flood victims. “They have been faced with hunger, snake bites, and malaria combined. The people in Lokoja, Idah and Ibaji local governments have been worst hit”, she noted.
Non-governmental organizations that include Partner for Development in conjunction with Baby Hannatu Foundation, the Igala Helping Hands (IHH), a group of friends from Igalaland and others are already moving in to give succour to the displaced people.
The Coordinator, IHH, Mr. Umar Bababida speaking when the body presented materials which included electricity generating sets, food items, medications, mattresses, blankets and other materials said more lives will be lost if urgent actions are not taken to support the victims.
“How can we be sleeping on our beds and ignore our people who are sleeping on the fields, in relief camps? We are going to be part of our people.”
Recalling why the Church set up its relief camp first ahead of government Reverend Father Ojoma said We (the church) were touched by the suffering of the people and we set up the relief camp immediately as the flood continued. We sent boats and vehicles to commence the evacuation before government arrived. We bought tanks, fire woods and provided shelter for them where we fed them until the state government arrived at take control of the camps. The government has also responded very well to the victims after taking over from us.”