Nigeria is facing a humanitarian crisis that could continue for another month, according to officials.
About 600 people have died, and 200,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged as 2 million people are affected by severe flooding that swept through the country’s south after an overly active rainy season.
Nigeria’s Minister of Humanitarian Affairs Sadiya Umar Farouq said on Oct. 16 that more flooding is expected and urged state leaders to prepare accordingly. Since the beginning of summer, large portions of farmland have been demolished. Officials are concerned about the increased spread of disease and food and fuel shortages.
“We are calling on the respective State Governments, Local Government Councils and Communities to prepare for more flooding by evacuating people living on flood plains to high grounds, provide tents and relief materials, fresh water as well as medical supplies for a possible outbreak of water-borne diseases,” Sadiya said on Twitter Sunday.
Officials said the emergency release of dams in Nigeria and neighboring Cameroon has also contributed to the worst flooding in the past decade. Reports show the disaster has affected 27 of Nigeria’s 36 states. The rainy season usually lasts from April to October, but the country’s meteorological agency has warned that the flooding could continue until the end of November in some states.
Sadiya said despite “concerted efforts” and early warnings, many state governments “did not prepare” for the flooding.
Many people do not have the means to relocate from their homes, BBC reports, and return after the water levels decrease.
“It’s saddening. All of a sudden, people are left with no homes and turned to beggars in weeks. No matter how rich they were, the displacement has reduced them so much,” Chiamaka Ibeanu, a registered nurse who lives in Onitsha in Anambra state, told The Washington Post.
The country’s economy has been hit by recording-breaking inflation, reports show. The World Food Program and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization report that Nigeria was among six countries facing a high risk of catastrophic hunger levels.
“No one carries the burden of these floods like our farmers,” said former vice president Atiku Abubakar. “The consequence of these losses by our farmers will be felt by all of us. Any hope of a bumper harvest is now diminished.”
“This will further add to misery in our towns and villages, and our cities as food prices continue to soar,” he said in a tweet.
Sadiyay announced Friday that the federal government had started to distribute 12,000 metric tons of food and other items to states in need.
Reports show some critical infrastructure such as hospitals, roads, bridges and schools, including the state-owned Niger Delta University, Amassoma, the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital, Okolobiri, and the University of Africa, Toru-Orua, have been severely impacted by the floods.
Rivers State University climate scientist professor Precious Ede told BBC Pidgin that the natural phenomenon is a “return period of the flood” for the Niger Delta Region that occurs about every 10 years.
In 2012, 1.3 million people were displaced, and 431 died when 30 of Nigeria’s states were flooded.
The climate scientist said the Nigerian government should build more dams and dredge the two major rivers in Nigeria – Niger and Benue. Besides controlling floods, the dams are used to generate electricity and water irrigation for agriculture and fisheries, the scientist said.