Nigerian Women's Lives on hold as homes and businesses are lost in Nigeria's worst flooding in Decades
“Women are already disadvantaged, often constrained by rigid gender norms that restrict their mobility, task them with inequitable and burdensome domestic and childcare duties, and expose them to the risks of sexual assault, exploitation, and harassment. These disparities are only magnified when there’s any sort of disaster,” - Gavi gender consultant Rachel Fisher Ingraham.
Nigeria is experiencing its worst flooding in over a decade. Over 1.4 million people have been displaced, 500 have been reported dead, and thousands have been injured.
Across the country, videos have emerged showing houses and swathes of land submerged in flood. Roads have been damaged, cutting whole states from the rest of the country. These floods have also disrupted the supply chain of foodstuff and fuel, further exacerbating the cost of living crisis rocking the country.
Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said the release of excess water from the Lagdo Dam in Cameroon is also a cause of the recent floods that continue ravaging various parts of the Country.
These floods, attributed to the release of excess water from the Lagdo dam in Northern Cameroon into Nigeria through River Benue and its tributaries, have overwhelmed communities already vulnerable due to heavy rainfall.
As such, women and girls' lives across the country have been significantly impacted by the floods. Globally, women and children are 14 times more likely to die when disaster hits.
The floods have left many as homeless and displaced, and due to difficulties accessing secure modes of transportation, poor, flood-displaced women are at risk of injury and illness.
Waterborne diseases like cholera, mosquito-borne malaria, and respiratory and skin infections all thrive in flood.
Edo State is one of the many states affected by the floods. Communities in Etsako Central and Etsako East areas of the State have been fully submerged. These areas are the worst hit.
In Egomeri Ekperi, Ebi Omone counts her loss. The floods had come as a shock to them. This community is an agricultural zone. For Omone, her farm produce was her means of livelihood. The flood has since overrun her rice farm.
The floods forced them to start harvesting the rice on the farm.
“This is not the time of harvesting. We do not harvest our rice at this time of the year. It is as a result of the flood. The floods are destroying the rice. We went to the farm to collect what we can. We have lost a lot of Rice and Cassava due to the flood.”
Salami Ehohor said the flood had taken her means of livelihood. As a rice farmer, Ms Ehohor said she had a lot of land, she had taken loans from banks so they could properly plant their rice but the flood damaged everything.
“We have no money to feed now. We borrowed from the banks so we could start off our rice farms. All our houses have now been flooded. We have lost so much.”
She appealed to the Government for help as they continue to count their losses.
A temporary shelter has been opened at Egomeri Ekperi for those affected by the floods. However, Women like Omone and Ehohor, they are yet to go. They continue to try and salvage what they can from their farms hoping they will not lose everything.
Delta State is another State that has been most affected by the floods. Different communities are currently submerged in water, and thousands have fled their homes.
The Ughelli/Asaba Road has been completely cut off, leaving traveling motorists stranded. The worst hit areas include Pantani, Ughelli, Asaba and Isoko parts of the State.
The Government of Delta State has urged residents to move towards the high grounds. Many roads cannot be accessed as they have been submerged in the floods. A lot of people are still trapped in their homes.
Different internally displaced persons camps are being set up across the State to accommodate those fleeing the floods.
Mama Jude, a mother of nine, is currently in one of the internally displaced persons camps. She had fled her community in Urhehe when the flood overran it. She says;
“ The flood came suddenly. We were not prepared at all. We had to leave most of our properties behind. I had to take my children and come here. Now we have nothing.”
She said the floods had also submerged their farmlands. They had journeyed through the floods carrying a few possessions and could not take anything from their farms. All she could think of was taking her nine children to safety. She made the journey to Ewu- Otor, having heard it was to accommodate displaced persons.
Obatere Fejiro had a thriving business before the flood took over her compound in Oleh Community. She sold fish which she usually bought from Bayelsa, and was able to take care of her young children. All that has changed with the flood.
She had gone to Bayelsa to buy fish and returned to see her compound submerged in flood.
She says, “ When I came back from Bayelsa, there was flood everywhere. All my property has been destroyed. It was a shock.”
She had taken her children and fled to the IDP Camp set up by the State Government at Oleh Community School. She said she is travelling back to Bayelsa to see if she can buy fish to resell. She seems undeterred by the flood currently ravaging the Bayelsa road. She says;
“The children have to eat. I have to provide for them. I can only do that if I have fish to sell. To provide for them, I have to go. I have to go back to Bayelsa.”
The Delta State Government says it has opened ten internally displaced person camps across the State to accommodate and cater to the needs of those affected by the flood.
The Director–General of the State Orientation Bureau, Eugene Uzum, announced this and urged those affected to go there. Although a welcome development, these camps have to be equipped with relief materials that will alleviate the plight of those who are there.
In the Camp at Oleh, there are not enough mattresses, and some of the classrooms have no Mosquito nets. This means many will have to sleep on the bare floor. Food items in the camp are not enough to cater to the teeming people coming into the camp.
Women like Obatere Fejiro, having fled their homes, should be in the camp. She shouldn’t have to make the dangerous journey to Bayelsa so she can provide for her kids there.
Though private individuals have begun making donations to these affected communities, the Federal Government has remained aloof.
The Government at both Federal and State levels must treat this current flood crisis with utmost importance by partnering with non-governmental agencies, community-based organisations and residents to join forces and prepare for these floods, reducing their impact.