Flooding is one of the major cause of displacement and food insecurity across Nigeria, and this has become an annual occurance. I was appointed to Nigeria in 2012 to support the government to address this recurring crisis which leaves an average of 500,000 people displaced each year. In 2012, the humanitarian crisis related to the floods affected 33 of the 36 states of the country; it was one of the worst in Nigeria in recent history. Humanitarian partners estimated that 7 million people were affected while over 2 million were internally displaced. Many of the displaced have returned to their homes in communities located on floodplains thereby remaining at risk of annual floods and the resulting humanitarian effects of such floods, such as displacement, disease outbreak and loss of livelihoods.
Flooding across Nigeria since July this year has left at least 100 people dead and hundreds displaced. Kaduna is one of the states affected and has faced recurring displacement from annual flooding for decades. Over the weekend, many homes were destroyed and hundreds displaced after heavy down pour that started on Friday.
Between 2012 t0 2014 I visited many states vulnerable to recurring flood raising awareness on the need for long term solutions to the impact of drought. In September 2013 I went on a mission to visit communities affected by flood, although the rains had stopped, hundreds of the displaced were still taking shelter in schools across the city with their homes completely destroyed. The assessment found that over 10,000 persons have been displaced and 1,297 houses destroyed. The displaced communities that have been requested to relocate told me that they were willing to move but were not sure where to go.
I also took frequent missions to Lagos State including organizing workshops in the city where representatives from other flood prone states could learn from some of the structures the State had put in place to address annual displacement from flooding. As at 2014, while no national policy existed on the relocation of at risk populations, individual state governments were developing state-based policies that address such issues as they arise, Lagos state was one of the states that has successfully set up temporary camps to house people displaced by flood as well as providing them with cash stipend until water recedes and they can return. Earlier in the year, I facilitated a high level missions to four flood prone states: Kogi, Delta, Anambra and Baylesa States to raise awareness on preventative actions.
I had the privilege of representing the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations at the Presidential Committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation chaired by the Chairman of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote. I remain inspired by the commitment demonstrated by Dangote and other members of the committee to address the humanitarian needs of the estimated 2 million Nigerians displaced and the communities affected by the 2012 flooding. In 2014, as the Head of the UN Humanitarian Advisory Team in Nigeria, I approached the committee for urgent funding to communities affected by the north east insurgent crisis. The Committee responded and provided 5 million in cash transfer to mostly women in two of the affected states. This support was provided way before humanitarian partners could mobilize any financial support.
This committee is still running strong today and recently provided N250 million as relief assistance to communities devastated by flood in Benue State. More than 110,000 people in 24 communities were displaced by floods in 2017. The Presidential committee represents to me a best practice of a national-led and driven private sector investment in disaster risk reduction and humanitarian action.
While commending the national led private sector driven humanitarian response in Nigeria, strategies for relocating populations from flood prone areas most also be prioritized, this recurring crisis needs a long term solution.
Flooding remains a recurring crisis in most parts of the country due to an urban planning that can no longer meet the needs of a rapidly growing urban population and the associated construction of roads and housing. Like the majority of the flood affected communities in Nigeria, flooding reoccurs in Kaduna and Lagos state due to blocked drainages with refuge and construction of structures along water channels.
Photo Courtesy of Naijagist