Leadership (Abuja)

21 October 2012

Nigeria: Flood - Epidemic Looms As Hunger, Death Ravage Victims

Photo: Leadership
Delta floods

analysis

With floods still continuing to rage across the country, thousands of communities have been displaced and millions of families destabilised, while hundreds of others have lost their lives. Our Reporters, MUAZU ABARI, Yola, NNAMDI MBAWIKE, Enugu and Kogi, SOLOMON AYADO, Benue, KOLA NIYI-EKE, Asaba and DAVID-CHYDDY ELEKE, Anambra paid a visit to various IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps and talked with victims about life after the floods which is so bad, as many aged men, women and children among them are said to be ill and require urgent medical attention.

Adamawa IDPs face hunger

The flood disaster in Adamawa state due to the opening of Lagdo Dam in Cameroon has almost taken over the entire state affecting almost all the 21 local government areas in Adamawa and over 150 communities were seriously ravaged by this destructive flood taking away lives, submerging communities, washing away farmlands and rendering people homeless, making them efugees in their own land. Communities worst hit are Guyuk, Demsa, Numan, Lamurde, Yola south, Yola North, Madagali, Gireo, Mayo-belwa, Mubi North, and Mubi south.

In Demsa, almost the entire local government was submerged, while in Madagali about 40 communities were submerged. Yola north had 30 communities and in some villages like Wuro-Bokki, dead bodies of humans and animals were sighted floating in the river- it was reported that over 10,000 people were displaced as a result of the incidence.

Narrating their ordeal to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY, Joseph Emmanuel, a native of Demsa one of the worst hit local governments in the state; he said that the recent flood disaster was the worst he had ever seen in his life.

"I don't know where to begin but honestly I have never experienced this kind of disaster in my life. I never even believed that such devastation could happen to people like us who are only struggling to survive in this frustrated country of ours.

I lost all my means of livelihood and all that I have laboured for in my life and left virtually with nothing. How will I even pick up my life again? I don't know what they are giving us in the name of feeding; it cannot even sustain one person not to talk of other members of my family, so we've become more like beggars and prisoners."

On his part, Mallam Abubakar Mohammed, narrating his ordeal to our correspondent, accused the government of insensitivity over their plight by not doing enough to ameliorate the suffering just as he accused some officials of shoddy deals.

"It is most unfortunate that at a time when we find ourselves in this situation the government has been treating us like animals. We didn't bring ourselves into this condition but despite all the support and assistance being given to us, some people who are saddled with the responsibility of taking care of us keep on short-changing us through fraudulent means. Imagine a situation where a family of three will be given two or three measures of rice? It is heartless and calls for new measures to be put in place, because, even when the federal government's assistance comes, it may not reach some of us."

From the north to the southern senatorial districts of the state the story is almost the same. According to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY findings, one of the predicament and challenges faced by the flood victims was the alleged diversion of relief materials for personal use by some person who were given the responsibilities of ameliorating the suffering of the affected people.

However, in some internally displaced camps visited, the flood victims complained that items being given to them can hardly sustain them and their families considering its quantity and this exposed them to more hunger and starvation as they have no alternative means of survival having lost all their belongings to the flood while some victims, particularly in communities of Bandawa Mutifun, Donti, Koya Insa, Gurmi, Baware , Wudi, Keke all in Lamurde local government area said that the government has neglect them and they are discriminated against.

Kogi and Enugu State IDPs drink from contaminated river

For indigenes and residents of border communities in Kogi and Enugu States including Elele, Ekanyi, Obale, Affa in Analo and Igga, the flood would have claimed many lives if the victims were not armed with swimming skills.The flood, which assumed a dangerous dimension has succeeded in displacing over 5000 members of the affected communities, thereby rendering them homeless and making them refugees.

Currently, they are seeking refuge in neighbouring communities in Idah Local government of Kogi State and Uzo-Uwani local government area of Enugu State.

Also, the refugees are reportedly drinking from the flooded Mabolo River which is very unsafe for human consumption because of its dirty nature, while hunger has become a major problem for them since most of them who were evacuated from their homes in wooden canoes could not carry foodstuffs.

Our correspondent who visited the victims' refugee camps in Enugu gathered that most residents of Ekanyi, Obale and Affa succeeded in crossing over to the Enugu boundary communities of Ogrugu, Ojjor and Iggah in Uzo-Uwani council using wooden canoes.

The people of Elele, Odobo, Nwajala and Ejule whose communities have also been completely submerged have all relocated to Idah town where they are now seeking refuge.

A source also disclosed that people from Odeke community in Ibaji council whose homes were also destroyed by the flood have relocated to Iggah community in Enugu state.

As at the time of filling this report, many Ekanyi and Affa natives were still arriving Ogurugu which has become a major host for the refugees which included aged men, women and children.

LEADERSHIP SUNDAY gathered that all the victims of the flood who have arrived Enugu are seeking refuge in primary schools and churches. Some of the buildings have no windows and doors, a development that may expose the victims to serious health hazards.

Already, some old people and children have fallen sick due to exposure to cold while women and teenage girls have lost their privacy as they stay together with men.

Narrating his ordeal, Mr James Oyekwu , a farmer, who is at Iggah Refugee Camp, said he and members of his family left their homes in wooden canoes after the flood . He stated that some of them sleep inside classrooms and Catholic Church building, adding that children have already started falling sick because of poor environment.

"Help us to appeal to the Federal Government to come to our aid urgently. We have not had a bath since we arrived , we need food, money, clothes, shelter and drugs to survive here. Let them come to our aid" he pleaded.

He further disclosed that four persons including a man, his wife and two children were drowned when their boat capsized while they were on their way to one the refugee camps in Enugu. According to him, the boat capsized while the victims were trying to calm down their goat.

LEADERSHIP SUNDAY also gathered that a woman gave birth to baby in a canoe while another was delivered of a baby inside a refugee camp in Enugu State.

In Delta, Reptiles, Poor Toilet System, Feeding Rock Various Camps

With over four thousand communities reportedly submerged by overflowing dam spread to Delta, especially in Isoko Local government, communities in the state it was confirmed that over 10,500 adults excluding children have successfully been evacuated and registered in camps.

Over two thousand communities were submerged; investigations by LEADERSHIP SUNDAY revealed that more communities are being submerged as various camps have also been over populated, leaving the victims vulnerable.

At Saint Patrick College camp in Asaba over 3,700 victims suffer congestion and poor feeding system even though the state government has provided adequate facilities.

For instance, there were observations of poor personnel, poor medical attention and no fewer than sixteen expectant mothers were seen in pain.

However, some of the victims who spoke to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY: "We are happy there are relief materials, but there is no adequate security and reptiles visit us at night. "

At Oleh, Isoko South Local Government Area, there were 7,000 victims who may be infested with communicable diseases- a possible epidemic looms.

Although the State health Commissioner allayed fears of the unknown, victims who did not want their names in the print said: "they moved us from Iyede, Emevor, Olomoro and brought us to the Oleh camp, the water we drink is bad, no security, there is serious congestion, all of us will just put our head in one place'.

Food Shortage, Disease Outbreak and Anambra Govt's Efforts

The sight of children clustering in a section of Reverend Father Joseph camp provided for people displaced by flood in Anambra got this reporter thinking; what could be the attraction? While mothers sat in a section, most carrying their suckling babies, and all looking in the direction where the children were clustered, it was hard to tell what was happening there.

Just as this reporter made to move towards the crowd, there seemed to be a combustion and every child scuttled away from the arena in another direction, then the attraction revealed itself... officials were distributing food meant to be lunch to the victims.

As the children clutched plates in their hand and looked nowhere else but at the big cooler of food, it was clear that what held their attraction, and what they cared most for now is the food. While the older children pushed their way to the cooler of rice, ignoring shouts for them to maintain decorum by officials, the younger children were restrained from going near by their mothers to avoid being injured in a stampede.

A mother in one of the camps in Onitsha who gave her name as Mrs Ozioma Uzor told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY that for the past three weeks that she has been at the camp, life has not been easy for her and her three children. She said that her case and that of her children is made even worse because she was unable to rescue anything from her house before it was submerged by flood.

"You see some of our neighbours here, they came with cooking pots, and once in a while when we get visitors who donate food item or money to us, they quickly make a fire and cook something for their children to complement the food that government brings to us here every day. In our case, me and my children have to depend on the food government brings, which most times are hoarded away from victims by wicked people."

Mrs Uzor is not alone in her plight, most of the children spoken to at Father Joseph camp in Aguleri seemed to care a lot about food. That they sleep in open space is not enough trouble to the children like the fact that there is less to eat in the camp. Mrs Theresa Ekwealor told our correspondent that there is discrimination in the sharing of food in camp, she complained that some officials now hoard food, and adduce many reasons not to give food to some victims in camp.

"There is now discrimination in feeding, some of the officials deny us food at day with the flimsy excuse that we did not sleep in the camp at night. Look at the kind of place where hundreds of us sleep every night, there are not enough mattresses, so some people at night leave camp to find where our children can sleep, but when we come back in the morning, we are denied food.

This was not what the governor told them, he (Gov) said he will be providing us food, but the officials find reasons to deny us food, you must tell them o." She cried.

For Mr Anaekwe Chuwuemeka, a victim in the same camp said the problem is not from the governor at all. "The governor is doing his best, he comes here everyday to see us, and promised that he will keep feeding us until the flood recedes, and that he will ensure that our houses are rebuilt so we can move back. I think the problem of food is with the town union officials, they are hoarding the food provided for us, making most of us and our children to go to bed hungry every day.

Though NEMA, Nigerian Red Cross Sociaty and other agencies are trying hard to provide relief materials for the victims, Anambra State government through Governor Peter Obi has championed help for the victims. Obi who has temporarily assigned the Secretary to State Government, Mr OselokaObaze to ensure strict monitoring of the condition of the victims and report to the state government makes daily visit to the camps.

LEADERSHIP SUNDAY observed that true to an earlier warning of the Nigerian red Cross Society on imminent out break of diseases in the camps, some victims in camp were already suffering from some diseases. It was disclosed to our correspondent that the diseases included; pneumonia and cholera among others.

Couple Loses Baby, Seeks Help For Incubated Twin In Benue

Mrs Ifeoma Ibini, a 21-year-old native of Ebonyi state who lives in Makurdi is a victim of the floods which swept away parts of the state recently. Married to Emeka Ibini, a seller of insecticides in Makurdi before the floods ravaged their home, sweeping away all that they had in their one-room flat of their crowded compound.

Many of the flood victims were evacuated to the IDP camp at the LGEA Primary school, Wurukum. That was where Ifeoma, who was 7 months pregnant at the time went into premature labour, delivering twins, one of who later died. At the federal health facility the few incubators at the hospital were in use when Ifeoma was taken there, so they coul not save one of the babies.

Speaking with LEADERSHIP SUNDAY , Mrs Ibini said that the other twin had to be incubated at another hospital where they were later moved to, Madonna Hospital, a private hospital where they charged N3,500 a day to incubate the baby. She is therefore asking for government assistance to save her baby's life. "this is my first pregnancy and I though God would bless us with twins but I lost one.

Since I came to this hospital, we have been struggling to pay medical bills;my husband is a petty trader, I want government to assist us because our surving baby needs to be incubated for three months before he can survive on his own." She pleaded.

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