Heavy rains have unleashed floods in parts of Nigeria, testing the country’s emergency preparedness one year after its worst flooding in decades.
Some 35,000 people have been affected, most of them in five states, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The 2012 floods affected around 7 million people.
According to Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA), this year’s floods have displaced some 600 people and caused one fatality in the northern Kano State, and about 20 bodies were unearthed at a cemetery in the state’s Yan Kaba area. In Katsina State, also in the north, 55 farms were inundated by heavy rains.
NEMA spokesman Ibrahim Farinloye said early warning and rapid relocation of communities helped prevent greater loss of lives.
Forty communities in flood-prone areas in southeastern Benue State have been relocated by authorities, who have also urged people in other vulnerable areas to move. Farinloye said the Borno, Adamawa and Taraba states in the northeast were flashpoints.
“We have been able to contain any adverse humanitarian effects. All the affected states have been able to respond adequately. So far the response has been positive, but we cannot say we have a perfect system,” Farinloye told IRIN.
“The southern states, especially the coastal states, are at risk. We are not only looking at the states [predicted to experience flooding]. We are working on all the states, and all the areas that need [assistance] will be covered by NEMA,” he said.
The flooding has thus far been containable and has occurred only in localities that have seen similar flooding in the past.
More rains than 2012
This year’s flood-hit states are still recovering from last year’s flooding, which was Nigeria’s worst in more than 40 years.
The Nigerian meteorological department has predicted more rains this year than in 2012.
“Last year they [authorities] took us to a camp, but after the water subsided, they just let us go,” said Niger Delta University student Victor Losaride. “I'm worried about what will happen this year. If it [floods] again, I don't know what will happen … I hope there won’t be flooding this year.”
Kabiru Usama Bakare, who lives in the northern Jos region, said he received little government assistance when he was displaced by the 2012 floods. He also says no flood preparations are being undertaken in his locality.
“I lost my wife and five children to the floods last year. I lost my entire family. I'm still trying to build my house all by myself,” he told IRIN. “We have not seen any work going here in anticipation of the flood. People are already moving out of the area so as not to be caught unawares.”
The Nigerian Red Cross (NRC) said it had improved its emergency response with lessons learned from last year’s disaster. Spokesman Nwankpa O. Nwankpa told IRIN that NRC had trained 22,000 volunteers across the country and stocked warehouses with relief items.
“Most people who suffered in 2012 was because they did not know what to do during flooding. We have educated and trained them on what do to,” he said. “Everybody in Nigeria has better awareness of flooding than last year.”
Farinloye said NEMA has urged dam management officials to lower water levels early enough to minimize flooding risks.
“They shouldn’t wait until the level of the water has got to the level of [breaching the dams] before they release the water. We told them to release it on a gradual basis once it goes beyond the normal level,” he said.
Communities along the river banks have been relocated to higher ground, said Farinloye, explaining that flood-prone communities have been trained and provided with basic equipment to aid quick evacuation.