Displaced by devastating floods, Nigerians are forced to use floodwaters despite the risk of cholera

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.

More than 600 dead in Nigeria's worst floods in a decade
According to UNICEF, “More than 2.5 million people in Nigeria are in need of humanitarian assistance — 60% are children — and are at increased risk of water-borne diseases, drowning and malnutrition as a result of the worst flooding in a decade.”
The surge in cholera infections could be devastating for the country, with the World Health Organization warning of a “tight global supply of cholera vaccines.”
Bayelsa and 30 other states in Nigeria have reported suspected cases of cholera, the country’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) said recently. the report.
A child is seen doing dishes during floods in Odi city of Bayelsa state, Nigeria on Tuesday.

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.

Aniso Handy has stayed at her home in Odiko, Bayelsa State, Nigeria.

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.

Igbomiye Zibokere and her children have lost their home due to the floods.

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.

Floods in Nigeria's Bayelsa state have forced people to wade through waist-high water.
Nigeria’s current floods have been blamed on below-average rainfall and an overflowing dam in neighboring Cameroon. But poor drainage infrastructure has also exacerbated the situation, environmentalists said.

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.

Water Resources Minister Suleiman Adamu told local media last week: “There is no doubt that it is a state of emergency, but it all depends on what you mean by declaring a state of emergency. I think we have not reached a state of emergency. The relevant authorities have not been able to. face this situation.”

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.”

Floods submerge entire houses in Nigeria.  At least 80 have died trying to escape

Authorities in Bayelsa say they are racing to provide relief items to thousands of displaced people.

According to the local government, around 20,000 people are currently living in the displacement camps, where they are given “two meals a day” along with “medical services, drinking water and other emergency aid”.

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.