Nigeria Is Facing Its Worst Flooding in a Decade

The disaster has killed 603 people and displaced more than one million residents

people ride boats through water-covered streets
Floods stranded people in Kogi, Nigeria, on October 6. AP Photo / Fatai Campbell

Heavy floods in Nigeria have killed at least 603 people and displaced upwards of 1.3 million since September, said Sadiya Umar Farouq, the country’s minister of humanitarian affairs and disaster management, at a media briefing Sunday.

Farouq painted a grave picture of the damage with statistics: The deluge injured more than 2,400 people and partially or completely destroyed over 200,000 homes. With 108,000 hectares of farmland damaged, the floods could also hurt Nigeria’s food supply, she told reporters. Plus, 332,000 hectares of roads and infrastructure have sustained damage.

Five Nigerian states will remain at risk of flooding through the end of November, reports Chinedu Asadu of the Associated Press (AP). At the briefing, Farouq called on southern coastal states to evacuate people living in vulnerable areas.

Intense rainfall has been a huge contributor to the disaster, and in September, a dam in Cameroon, which borders Nigeria to the east, released excess water. Nigeria does not have a dam to contain the overflow, even though the two countries agreed in the 1980s that one should be built, per the New York TimesRuth Maclean.

The floods are Nigeria’s worst since 2012, when a similar number of people to this year were displaced, and roughly 500 people died, writes Quartz’s Alexander Onukwue. Flooding is a recurring problem in most parts of Nigeria, and in cities, rapid urban growth and poor planning make the issue worse. After heavy rains in urban areas, the most common cause of flooding is inadequate drainage systems, as Andrew Slaughter and Nelson Odume wrote in The Conversation in 2017.

Another major cause is climate change, which leads to more extreme storms and rainfall. Matthias Schmale, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator for Nigeria, said in a briefing last week that climate change is largely to blame for the severe flooding, per the Times.

Nigeria and other African countries are expected to continue to face natural disasters made worse by carbon emissions from other parts of the world. Per a paper on climate justice published last year by the nonprofit Africa Center and the research institute Energy for Growth Hub, most African countries have contributed “essentially nothing” to creating climate change, the Times reports.

Farouq said at the briefing that some states did not prepare sufficiently for the forecasted floods. The country has established a national response plan for local and state governments and distributed food and supplies in a relief effort, per NPR’s Ayana Archie.

Olam Nigeria, an agricultural service, says that 10,000 acres of its farmland have been flooded, and the resulting food shortages could cause prices to rise, per Quartz.

Armed violence in Nigeria has already displaced over 3 million people, per the AP, and the floods have only added to this number.

Earlier this year, a heavy monsoon season led to catastrophic flooding in Pakistan. The disaster had killed nearly 1,700 people as of October 1, displaced almost 8 million people, killed more than one million livestock and affected nearly 15 percent of the country’s rice crop, according to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

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