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Flooding Beyond Hope’: A Rising Phenomenon in Nigeria

Floods kill more people and causes more damage than other severe weather related events. Immediate impacts of flooding can include loss of human life, damage to property and infrastructure, and destruction of crops and livestock. More than 300 people have reportedly died from flooding in Nigeria in 2022 alone while 150,000 people, half of whom, are children, have been severely affected by floods in recent weeks. The good news is there are proven methods to restore and reconnect our rivers. Setting levees back or otherwise modifying levees allows the floodplain to store more water naturally, keep people safe, and provide other benefits such as clean water and wildlife habitat.

Floods can occur nearly anywhere on Earth; in any place that rain can fall, floods can occur. “Never drive through flooded areas. As little as six inches of water can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Floods, big or small, can have devastating effects on your home and your family. You can take steps to reduce the harm caused by flooding. Learn how to prepare for a flood, stay safe during a flood, and protect your health when you return home after a flood. Drowning accounts for 75% of deaths in flood disasters. Between 1998-2017, floods affected more than 2 billion people worldwide. 80-90% of natural disasters in the last 10 years are from floods, droughts and severe storms. ” These are facts and warnings from the World Health Organization (WHO).

To understand how floods work, you have to know something about how water behaves on our planet. Causes of floods include hurricanes, broken levees or dams, rapidly thawing snow, ice jams, and heavy slow moving rain or repeated rains. A flood can happen in a few minutes, hours, days, or over weeks. No matter how quickly it happens or the cause, flooding is deadly. Whenever flooding takes place, there is the possibility of loss of life, hardship to people, and extensive damage to property. This is because flooding can carry bridges, cars, houses, and even people. Flooding also destroys crops and can wipe away trees and other important structures on land. Some floods occur abruptly and recede quickly whereas others take several days or even months to form and to recede because of variation in size, duration, and the area affected.

Is flooding getting worse?

Seasonal rains and floods are severely impacting countries in West and Central Africa including the Republic of Congo, Chad, Liberia, Nigeria, Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Mauritania, the Central African Republic, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon, Mali and Burkina Faso, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

West Africa climate expert, Gilbert Kouamé, indicated that multiple interrelated drivers are responsible for the unfortunate situation in West Africa, and that the need for adaptation implementation in the region is urgent.

Massive population growth especially in (urban) floodplains along with intense and uncontrolled urban expansion and planning which lead to informal settlements especially in flood-prone areas are also key drivers, Gilbert Kouamé added. Furthermore poorly planned drainage networks, which are undersized, unconnected, and improperly channelled, as well as land use changes with development of impervious areas, cause much of the rainfall to run off on the surface.

Where is flooding in Nigeria?

With just over 206 million people, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country. Floods in Nigeria have killed at least 300 people this year and the situation could worsen due to heavy rainfall and the effects of excess water from a dam in Cameroon that will affect 14 Nigerian states, the disaster management agency said.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) held an emergency meeting on Monday to review the flood situation and plan a response. More than 100,000 people have been displaced by flooding since the start of the rainy season and are now living in temporary shelter, NEMA director general Mustapha Habib Ahmed said.

The development, he noted, would have serious consequences for frontline states and communities along the courses of Rivers Niger and Benue. The frontline states, the DG mentioned, include: Adamawa, Taraba, Benue, Niger, Nasarawa, Kebbi and Kogi in the northern part of Nigeria, while Edo, Delta, Anambra, Cross River, Rivers and Bayelsa were listed among states prone to flash floods in the southern axis of the country.

Meanwhile, the Save the Children International (SCI), has also warned that decades of conflict and insecurity, drought and poor rainfall, have damaged food sources and livelihoods across Niger and Nigeria, leading to soaring levels of hunger. The group indicated that since early July, intense rainfall has affected communities along the Niger-Nigeria border, triggering flooding which has washed away or damaged at least 14,900 homes.

How flooding can be prevented

In many countries, rivers prone to floods are often carefully managed. Defences such as levees, bunds, reservoirs, and weirs are used to prevent rivers from bursting their banks. When these defences fail, emergency measures such as sandbags or portable inflatable tubes are used. Coastal flooding has been addressed in Europe and the Americas with coastal defences, such as sea walls, beach nourishment, and barrier islands. A dike is another method of flood protection. A dike lowers the risk of having floods compared to other methods. It can help prevent damage; however it is better to combine dikes with other flood control methods to reduce the risk of a collapsed dike. A weir, also known as a lowhead dam, is most often used to create millponds, but on the Humber River in Toronto, a weir was built near Raymore Drive to prevent a recurrence of the flooding caused by Hurricane Hazel in 1954, which destroyed nearly two fifths of the street.

Flood modelling research includes geography, remote sensing, and statistics. Approaches for flood modelling require multidisciplinary work for obtaining flood risk mitigations. In developed countries like the United Kingdom, United States and the Netherlands, progress in flood risk management has depended on data availability, access to up-to-date data, and fast bureaucratic processes. These conditions are seldom found in developing countries. Within the last two decades, the most widely used approaches in modelling flooding in Nigeria include geospatial techniques and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and hydrological modelling and fitting of probability distributions. In addition, a report noted that lack of proper spatial planning and land use management coupled with incapacity of governments to ensure good urban governance exacerbate the cases of urban flood in Nigeria. A GIS-based spatial planning and land use management can be a versatile tool in building capacities for flood disaster reduction and preparedness to ensure sustainable urban development.

Nigeria suffers from poorly managed health reforms and despite the government’s policies, there is an absence of organised and coordinated institutional structures to plan and respond to flood emergencies, said a study, “Impacts Of Flood Disasters In Nigeria: A Critical Evaluation Of Health Implications And Management.” Adding that: Diarrhoea outbreak is the predominant waterborne disease associated with flood disasters. Although Lagos State has been said to have the best flood preparedness plan in Nigeria, it has failed to reduce yearly flood disasters and their impact on people’s health. The study recommend a holistic approach by the government to get stakeholders, especially the health sector, more actively involved in disaster management planning.

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