Nigeria's Flood and Health Impact

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Aishatu Ella-John* Ifechi Anikwe* and Ifeoma Malo*

The recent floods in Nigeria, which began in August 2022, have led to the displacement of over 1.4 million people in 33 out of the 36 states of the country. This year, Nigeria, known for its seasonal rain and accompanying flooding, experienced the worst case of flooding in a decade. The flooding of 2012 reportedly killed 363 people and displaced over 2.1 million persons when the Niger and Benue rivers overflowed their banks.

The reasons for the flood are multifaceted and range from state governments' failing to prepare early for seasonal floods to the breach and release of excess water from the Lagdo dam in Cameroon, which runs the course of communities downstream along the River Niger and River Benue. Nigeria lacks a buffer dam to prevent this overflow and has failed to build one despite needing one as far back as 1982. The combination of heavy seasonal rains, poor urban planning, and inadequate flood mitigation infrastructure has made parts of the country more vulnerable to these flood disasters.

The effects of the disaster were quite evident in the disrupted fuel supply and 23% food inflation that arose due to washed-out farmlands and supply chain disruptions. Another inevitable effect is the outbreak of diseases in flood-affected communities. According to UNICEF, "more than 2.5 million people in Nigeria need humanitarian assistance — 60 percent of which are children — and are at increased risk of waterborne diseases, drowning and malnutrition due to the most severe flooding in the past decade."

Several states have already reported hundreds of suspected cholera and diarrhea cases. Waterborne diseases, respiratory infections, and skin diseases have also been rising, especially among children. These diseases and their spread are further exacerbated by the fact that many flooded communities, entire hospitals, and healthcare centers are submerged and non-operational.

Also added to the challenge occasioned by the floods is the mental and physiological challenges, including hypertension, which are some of the health challenges expected to rise with the recently reported flooding in Nigeria.

Health Impacts of Floods;

When flooding happens, data and public attention are mainly directed toward economic and physical impacts; however, the effect of flooding on the health system and the health of the affected population cannot be understated.

Flooding directly leads to drowning, damages to existing health infrastructure, reduced or total lack of access to health facilities, and the outbreak of diseases; waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid and vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever are listed health challenges that accompany floods.

There are also secondary health impacts from contaminated water sources by sewages and saltwater in some environs.

In response to Nigeria's recent flooding crisis, UNICEF reports that children and adults are most at risk of illnesses through waterborne diseases, drowning, and malnutrition.

Data released by UNICEF indicates:

  • 34 out of the 36 states in the country were affected by the floods,

Prevention:

The World Health Organisation — WHO has recommended a few steps to protect community health during floods:

  • Knowing your community’s evacuation route and warning signals and identifying areas prone to flooding or landslides.

Additional Tips for developing countries:

  • National Emergency Management Teams should provide canoes for flooded communities.

Conclusion

Nigeria, even without the flooding, was already facing a medical crisis as the country, in the past couple of years, has witnessed large numbers of Medical Brain Drain with medical professionals (including nurses, doctors, medical support officers, and medical scientists) migrating in large numbers to other countries for better opportunities. The country currently has an estimated one medical doctor/per 100,000 population, which means that the outbreak of diseases will overburden the strained medical system due to the flooding.

Unfortunately, the Government has no immediate action plan to address the current brain drain or prevent further floodings and disease outbreaks.

President Mohammadu Buhari, on 25 October 2022, gave a directive to Ministries, Departments, and Agencies to come up with a plan to prevent future floods in 90 days; this directive came at the height of the crisis, which seemed to portray no sense of urgency at the period where states like Bayelsa where 300 Communities were reported to have been submerged in the floods.

As we await the 90-day action plan as instructed by the President, we remain hopeful that the action plan will include a health impact assessment and a comprehensive action plan on healthcare in flood situations. Non- Governmental Organisations, Civil Society Organisations, Community Based Organisations should play a part in the interim in providing awareness on the health impacts of floods, engaging community health practitioners to act as a stopgap when medical institutions are inaccessible from flooding, and, most importantly, including health impacts in the loss and damages debates as it relates to climate change.

Helplines :

The Following Helplines can be reached in flood-related health impact reporting:

NEMA Nigeria — 0800CALL NEMA (0800 22 55 63 62)

Nigeria Center for Disease Control — 080097000010

Compiled by Aishatu Ella-John

Supported by Ifechi Anikwe

Reviewed by Ifeoma Malo

Special Appreciation to Prof Saad Ahmed and Dr. Shakir Balogun

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Clean Technology Hub is a hybrid hub for research, policy development, community engagement, & incubation of clean energy & climate resilience ideas in Nigeria.

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Clean Technology Hub

Clean Technology Hub is a hybrid hub for research, policy development, community engagement, & incubation of clean energy & climate resilience ideas in Nigeria.