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Nigeria grapples with catastrophic flooding

Isaac Mugabi (Reuters,AP)
October 19, 2022

Relief work is under way in Nigeria, where the worst flooding in a decade has killed at least 600 people and displaced 1.3 million. Authorities are warning of more heavy rains to come.

Floods in Lokoja
Floods have destroyed thousands of homes in Lokoja city at the confluence of the Niger and Benue riversImage: Ayodeji Oluwagbemiga/REUTERS

Flooding in 33 of Nigeria's 36 states has claimed at least 603 lives and left 1.3 million people displaced, according to the authorities. 

Nigeria experiences annual flooding, especially in coastal areas, but this year's floods are the worst in more than a decade.

The Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs has attributed the flooding to unusually heavy rainfall and excess water from the Lagdo dam in neighboring Cameroon.

President Muhammadu Buhari this week directed federal agencies to scale up response and intervention efforts to support flood victims.

Permanent Secretary in the humanitarian ministry, Nasiru Sani Gwarzo, told DW that thousands of homes and farmlands were damaged by flood waters.

Across the country, some 450,000 hectares of farmland has been devastated. Last week, Nigeria opened its flood reserve to ensure supplies for the public.

Authorities are also concerned that fear water contamination caused by flooding may facilitate the spread of disease. 


A cluster of boats transporting people
Flood waters in Kogi, Nigeria on October 6Image: Fatai Campbell/AP Photo/picture alliance

Relief camps for flood victims

Habiba Zakar was displaced by the flooding in Jigawa State in Nigeria's north west. Jigawa is one of the worst-affected states.

Zakar is now in one of the relief camps that has been set up for displaced people around the state.

"My house was washed away by the floods, and I had to leave our village. It was a terrible experience, but we had no option. I had just finished planting rice, but two days later, everything was destroyed," Zakar told DW.

The camp leader, Hajiya Sani, told DW that those being sheltered need food and other essentials.

"Here we have 268 women and 706 children — both boys and girls. The situation is, of course, heartbreaking. You can find a single mother with 10 children but with little to feed them," Sani said.

The displacement of people in flooding is compounding the humanitarian crisis in country's volatile north. More than 3 million people were already displaced in the region, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center.

More heavy rain to come

Communities on the banks of the Niger and Benue rivers were forced to evacuate. James Yisa, who farms rice along the Niger, is now counting his losses.

"The floods destroyed my rice farm, and now there is nothing to harvest."

One businessman from the area, Solomon Alao Kazeem, told DW he and his family had to leave for their safety.

"We are traveling to Abuja, but as you can see, there is a traffic jam, and that is why our car is being ferried to Banda so that we can continue," he said.

Map showing the Niger and Benue rivers
The banks fo the Niger and Benue rivers burst in heavy rains

Nigeria is bracing for more heavy rains. 

"Meetings have been held with the president and governors of the affected states to plan ahead of more rains later this year," Nasiru Sani Gwarzo, the Permanent Secretary in the humanitarian affairs ministry told DW. 

Humanitarian affairs minister, Sadiya Umar Farouq, has also warned that five states are still at risk of experiencing flooding by November.

"We are calling on the respective state governments, local government councils, and communities to prepare for more flooding by evacuating people living on flood plains to high grounds," Farouq told the Associated Press (AP).

Uwaisu Idris and Muhammad Bello Ibrahim contributed to this report.

Edited by: Benita van Eyssen