Nigeria: Five Health Risks Associated With Flooding

The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agencies (NIHSA) last week predicted more rains in the oncoming weeks, which could lead to flooding in 74 local government areas, including in the Federal Capital Territory.

This prediction followed daily monitoring of flood water level of the River Niger at Lokoja. The agency revealed that the water level has since July 8 exceeded those recorded in 2012 and 2018.

Based on the forecast, residents of FCT and other regions in the country have been alerted to expect a greater threat of flooding.

Flooding does not only cause physical damage and disruption, but it can also lead to illness and injuries.

The most obvious danger of floodwater is the risk of drowning because water level rises quickly and can catch people off guard. However, the biggest unseen risk is contacting infections from dirty water.

Here are some of the health risks posed by flooding:

1. Drowning, injuries, and trauma: Due to the fact that water level rises quickly, it might lead to drowning. This is often rampant when there is flooding because many river banks overflow and people misjudge the current of the water. Do not walk through moving water as there may be a landslide or debris in the water which can make you fall.

You may also sustain injuries from open manholes or drainages overflowed with water. Driving in flooded water is also dangerous, it is advisable to abandon the car when flood water rises or starts entering into the vehicle. Tetanus infection is not common after injuries from flooding. However, tetanus vaccines are advised to be given to people who sustain injuries or wound.

2. Hypothermia can be a problem during the rainy season, especially among children. Hypothermia is a situation where the body loses heat faster than it can produce, causing a dangerously low body temperature.

This can happen when trapped in floodwaters for lengthy periods. There may also be an increased risk of respiratory tract infections due to exposure (loss of shelter, exposure to floodwaters and rain).

3. Cholera: Nigeria has been experiencing cholera outbreaks and they are expected to increase with the flood.

Cholera is one of the major water-borne diseases often associated with flooding. Cholera is an infectious disease that causes severe watery stool which can lead to dehydration and even death if untreated. Cholera is most common in places with poor sanitation, crowding, war and famine.

Flooding may contribute to cholera outbreaks in a number of ways. Floodwater can overflow the sanitation system and contaminate the environment and water sources.

The outbreak is often caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with cholera causing bacterium called vibrio cholerae. This can be transmitted through infected feaces.

4. Hepatitis E: Hepatitis E is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis E virus. The virus is shed in the stool of infected persons and enters the human body through the intestine. Flooding adds to the serious pollution and health risks associated with open defecation which is a problem in Nigeria. This allows for easy contamination of drinking water and food.

Diseases such as hepatitis E is transmitted through contaminated drinking water.

5. Typhoid: Typhoid is a life-threatening fever that is spread through contaminated food and water. Flooding and drought are two extreme weather conditions which intensify the risk of typhoid transmission.

During the flooding period, water sources are more likely to be tainted with faecal matter leaking from poor sewage systems, open defecation, and unimproved sanitation facilities.

Typhoid fever is common in places with poor sanitation and a lack of safe drinking water. Emergency situations put communities at high risk for typhoid transmission due to close living quarters in emergency and refugees shelters. Access to safe water and adequate sanitation, hygiene among food handlers and typhoid vaccination are all effective in preventing typhoid fever.

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