Michael Olugbode in Abuja
The United Nations (UN) yesterday raised the alarm that flooding in some states in Nigeria was expected to shoot up the already estimated 19.5 million people considered to be food insecure in the country.
A statement by the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mathias Schmale, noted that “there can be no doubt that climate change is real and is already affecting millions of people in Nigeria alone. Vulnerable people in Nigeria, as elsewhere in the Sahel, are on the frontline of the climate crisis for no fault of their own.”
The most senior UN official in Nigeria said discussion on present global warming that had caused flooding in different parts of the world should be on the front burner as the world gathers in Egypt next week for the 27th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP 27),
He said: “Over this past week, I spoke with people that have lost all their possessions as a result of devastating floods, during visits to Adamawa in the north-east and Anambra in the south-east.
“It was humbling to observe the determination of flood devastated communities who are seeking longer term solutions to the flooding menace in the face of great adversity.
“With more than a quarter of all affected people (close to 730,000 people), Anambra is the state most affected by the worst floods in Nigeria for more than a decade. I saw houses, shops, schools, and fields underwater.
“I met people temporarily living in camps in Ogbaru who are hoping to safely return home to salvage what is left. This is a challenge they now face every year.
“As the world gathers in Egypt next week for the 27th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP 27), there can be no doubt that climate change is real and is already affecting millions of people in Nigeria alone.”
He added: “Vulnerable people in Nigeria, as elsewhere in the Sahel, are on the frontline of the climate crisis for no fault of their own.
“The staggering devastation caused by the current floods in Nigeria and the profound impact on people’s lives are a stark reminder of the humanitarian, development, and socio-economic cost of the climate crisis on people who do the least to contribute to climate change.”
He lamented that. “The flooding has affected more than three million people. Over 600 people have lost their lives and another 1.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes.
“The floods have extensively damaged houses, farms, and basic infrastructure and decimated people’s livelihoods. Some 34 states are affected. The floods are increasing humanitarian needs in north-east Nigeria where people are already grappling with alarming levels of hunger and malnutrition driven by conflict, displacement, and high food prices.”
Schmale said: “In Anambra, I saw huge fields of damaged crops, a situation mirrored across the county, where over 108,000 hectares of farms have been destroyed or damaged by floods ahead of the October harvest season. “The damage to staple foods such as cassava, rice, and plantain among other crops risks aggravating the already alarming food and nutrition crisis across Nigeria. Before the floods, an estimated 19.5 million people were considered food insecure.
“The devastating floods have also struck at the same time as a worrying cholera outbreak that has killed more than 465 people and affected over 18,000 others in 31 states across the country since January.
“Without urgent interventions in public health and the provision of clean water and sanitation facilities, the cholera outbreaks will worsen.”
The Humanitarian Coordinator who admitted that the front-line local government and state workers as well as humanitarian actors were doing the best they could do to provide relief, noted that it was clear that the humanitarian response had been too slow.
He said: “Floods will occur again, and important lessons need to be learned for mitigation and preparedness for a better response the next time.
“As the waters are slowly receding, the most important priority now is to help people to get back to what is left of their homes and to regain lost assets and livelihoods. Immediate humanitarian assistance has to include shelter, clean drinking water, and livelihood support, including seeds, farming tools and cash assistance.
“We must ensure that aid reaches those most in need through the State Governments and their respective State Emergency Management Agencies (SEMA) with the support of the Federal Government and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).”
Schmale said: “Additional funding and resources are required to respond to immediate and early recovery needs with a focus on the most vulnerable.
“The International Federation of the Red Cross/Red Crescent has issued a Floods Emergency Appeal of CHF 13 million (US $13 million) to provide clean water, emergency shelter and cash assistance to half a million people in several states, including Adamawa, Anambra, Bayelsa, Kebbi, Kaduna, Yobe, and Zamfara. NEMA is expected to issue an emergency floods response action plan in the coming days.
“I urge all donors and the international community to contribute to the flood response across the country quickly and generously, as well as to sustain and increase funding for the humanitarian response in north-east Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has urged the federal government to dredge the River Niger as part of measures to prevent the flooding of areas on the banks of the river.
The governor made the call during the presentation of palliative items by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in Benin City, the Edo State capital.
According to a statement, Obaseki, who was represented by his Deputy, Philip Shaibu, said responses to checkmate consequences of flooding in the country may not be enough if adequate measures are not emplaced to ensure lasting solutions to the problem.
He said, “On the issue of the flooding, beyond government or individuals coming to the rescue by way of providing shelter, food and other relief items, I think we should look for a permanent solution to put an end to this unfortunate incident.
“The solution, from my research, is to dredge the Niger River. Until we do that, we would have to continually do things like these. It is better to put an end to the problem once and for all. What is required is not political dredging. It must be handled by experts so that we can deal with the issue of flooding holistically.”
The governor said his administration would continue to respond positively to the needs of those displaced by the ravaging flood disaster in the state, adding that the government had since commenced the distribution of relief materials to the affected local government areas of the state.
He commended the federal government for supporting the state government’s response, noting, “We want to thank President Muhammadu Buhari, on behalf of those affected by the flood, for the relief materials.
“It is a collective responsibility when there are issues like these. I would love NEMA to help relay this message to the President about what we need to do beyond palliatives so that we can thank him more, even before he leaves office.”