Desperate to survive, many villagers fleeing severe floods that have destroyed their homes and livelihoods must also depend on the floods for food.
As he washes uncooked fish in dirty floods next to his neighbor doing laundry, local trader Chigozie Uzo shares her fears of catching a water-borne disease.
“I’ve heard of cholera,” he told CNN, “but I have no choice but to use this water.”
A meter away from Uzo, a young girl no older than five squats to urinate in the same flood water where she washed the pot and dishes.
Humanitarian agencies fear the floods will cause a health disaster and Nigeria has already seen a spike in cholera infections as floods ravage parts of the country.
Bayelsa is among 33 of Nigeria’s 36 states dealing with devastation in the country’s worst floods in a decade. Flooding across the West African country has claimed more than 600 lives, its government says, and displaced nearly 1.5 million people, according to the country’s humanitarian ministry.
Aniso Handy, 56 years old, has stayed in her house in Odiko, as the water has flooded.
“I still live here,” he told CNN as he paddled his canoe into the overcrowded living room before heading upstairs to a dry room.
“My family doesn’t stay here because of the flood and their safety … but I know how to swim,” he said.
For some of the community, for example, 27-year-old Igbomiye Zibokere, this is not the first time they have suffered the dire consequences of floods.
During the last major floods in 2012, his ailing mother drowned in her room when water engulfed their home, he told CNN.
“My mother was sick when the floods happened in 2012. The water level was high and my sister and I could not carry her. All we could do was cry when she drowned in her room,” Zibokere said.
Zibokere, who is a petty trader, said he returned from the bush near his house in early October to find it flooded. The water level rose to the neck and they had to leave the house.
She and her young children are homeless and living rough in a roadside tent.
“We are in a panel. If it rains, the wind will blow and the rain will beat us. Now I am suffering. No food to eat or water to drink,” the mother. – said the five.
Moving the living and the dead
In the Bayelsa capital of Yenagoa, 28 kilometers (17 miles) from Odi, floods have displaced not only the living but also the dead.
In the town of Azikoro in Yenagoa, residents said they have seen bodies floating in the flood around the local cemetery.
Adapting to life Walking through the stench of stagnant water is not the only concern for residents of Azikoro as the cost of living in Bayelsa rises due to flooding.
With major highways under water, Bayelsa is cut off from the rest of the country. Boats have become the only means of transportation in much of its environment.
To get to Bayelsa, travelers pay about 2,000 Naira (less than $5) to cross overcrowded roads and board a full dump truck.
Those unable to pay the fee can be seen sailing across the water carrying what little possessions they can.
As a warmer climate leads to more intense rainfall, authorities are also blaming climate change for the floods. Meanwhile, the country wants to tackle one of the main causes of flooding problems by holding bilateral talks with Cameroon to regularly open its dam, Nigeria’s Humanities Ministry said.
“Next month (November 2022) we have to start a bilateral discussion with the Cameroonian authorities on the regular opening of the Lagdo dam,” the ministry said last week.
Complaints to authorities
But weeks after the floods began, the Nigerian government has yet to declare the flood a national emergency.
Handy is not happy with the government’s response.
“Nigerians are used to being managed. If not, we would all die,” he said. “Nigerians take care of themselves, we are more like children who have no father or mother.”
Authorities in Bayelsa say they are racing to provide relief items to thousands of displaced people.
But for Zibokere, the government’s efforts are rarely felt in his community.
“When the government sends relief items to the community, the people who handle them distribute most of it to their relatives. The rest of us go hungry,” he said.
The spokesperson for the Bayelsa government, Daniel Alabrah, said the government was aware of these complaints.
“We hear some of these complaints, but we can’t verify them, even though some say they haven’t received material relief, others say they have,” Alabrah told CNN. “These reports help us monitor the process to see that the relief materials are reaching the intended people,” he added.
With the rains still coming and more expected until November, the Nigerian government has warned that more intense flooding is imminent.