By Linda Bordoni
More than 600 people have died in Nigeria’s worst flooding in a decade. The death toll continues to rise as many drown as they attempt to flee rising waters from overflowing rivers and dams or are trapped in flooded vehicles or basements. Many have lost their lives in boats that have capsized and thousands have been injured.
According to the country’s National Emergency Management Agency, the catastrophic flooding which has wreaked havoc in 31 of Nigeria’s 36 states, including the capital, has affected more than 2 million people.
Almost 1,5 million have been forced to flee their homes and their lands.
Nigeria’s Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs announced on Sunday that the Federal Government had started to distribute food and other emergency aid to disaster-stricken states.
With more than 200,000 homes destroyed or damaged and over 70,000 hectares of farmlands flooded, the rains and overflowing rivers have not only wreaked death, they have devastated livelihoods and food security and set the ground for a long-term emergency situation.
Meanwhile, the country is bracing for more high-intensity rain.
The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs on Sunday called on the respective State Governments and Local Government Councils and Communities “to prepare for more flooding by evacuating people living on flood plains to high grounds, provide tents and relief materials, fresh water as well as medical supplies for a possible outbreak of water-borne diseases.”
Earlier this month, authorities warned of catastrophic flooding for states located along the courses of the Niger and Benue rivers, noting that three of Nigeria’s overfilled reservoirs were expected to overflow.
The release of excess water from a dam in neighboring Cameroon has reportedly contributed to the flooding.
Climate change and corruption
Observers say that while many parts of Nigeria are prone to yearly floods, climate change has exacerbated the emergency.
What’s more, in the country wracked by corruption and political instability, experts are pointing to “violations of regional rules” and construction near waterways for the high level of damage.
The government has announced a delegation will be visiting state governors across the country to suggest strengthening states’ flood response mechanisms.