24 July 2013

Nigeria: Bringing Happiness Back to Martha

press release

In the latter half of 2012, Nigeria experienced its worst flooding in more than 40 years, and people are now rebuilding their lives with the support of the Nigerian Red Cross Society, which is working in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Martha Ogwe, a 52-year-old widow and mother of seven, lives in the village of Odogwu in Kogi State. It is located close to the Niger River and is in one of the areas of the country that was most affected by the floods. When Martha saw the waters rising, she fled, travelling by boat with her neighbours to Idah, a town 10 kilometres from her home.

"I was scared as I cannot swim or paddle," she says. Martha remained in Idah until the flood water, which rose to over one metre, receded. She survived on rice given to her by local residents.

On her return to Odogwu in November, she found that her house had been severely damaged, and all her belongings swept away. "The mud walls had melted, and water had come through the entire house," explained Martha. "What I regret most is that all of my childrens' school certificates have been lost."

The Nigerian Red Cross Society is supporting 100 households whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged in three communities in Kogi State. Staff and volunteers have worked with communities to identify the households that are most in need of assistance, such as those with family members who are chronically ill, physically challenged, widows, the elderly, single parents and orphans.

In Martha's village of Odogwu, local carpenters and masons have been recruited and provided with zinc sheets, timber, cement and tools to help repair or rebuild 30 households. The wooden frames are set in cement foundations and lined with polythene: a cost-effective means of making the houses more resilient to flooding in the future.

Now that the house frame for Martha's new home has been completed, she will finish it to her liking. Her sons have already fetched bamboo to enable her to fill the walls and soon she will be able to move in.

"If the Red Cross had not helped me, I would be living the life of a beggar looking for a place to sleep. I am very happy with my new home," says Martha. "The Red Cross has brought happiness back into my life."

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