07 Nov 2022
  • Tabara Yacine LO | Regional Office Editor

Nigeria is currently experiencing the worst flooding in a decade, affecting over 2.5 million people in 35 states. There are already 3 million displaced people; however, not everyone has the opportunity to escape the floods, which can trap the poorest households.  

Lucas, a local community leader in the Agyogo community, lives in Benue State, in east-central Nigeria. The floods have placed him and his wife in a very vulnerable situation. The couple lost their farm and other means of livelihood. With nowhere to go, they are living from day to day in their flooded flat: "With the life we are living now, our next meal is not guaranteed. Most of our neighbours who have families in the inner cities have left the community but we are here because we have nowhere else to go.” Lucas and his wife have also seen their health situation deteriorate dramatically. With 340,000 hectares of land flooded across the country, the risk of supply disruptions and disease outbreak is significantly higher: " We have not seen any deaths, but the outbreak of disease is widespread. Even the hospital near the community is covered by the floods."

Luca and his wife had no other choice but to stay in their flooded flat. Photo: IOM 2022/Elijah Elaigwu

In order to protect individuals and mitigate the impact of the floods, IOM is operating through a multi-sectoral approach. A response adapted to the needs of the populations in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe and Benue States is being implemented in coordination with partners on the ground. So far, IOM's Camp Coordination and Camp Management teams have deployed interventions that have benefited to over 90,000 people. This includes the distribution of emergency shelter kits to more than 1,100 severely flood-affected households, as well as measures to address critical water, sanitation and hygiene needs: IOM has been involved in the construction of 100 latrines, the disinfection of sanitation facilities and the disposal of solid waste. In addition, distributions of hygiene and cholera treatment kits are organised to prevent the risk of epidemics. In such situations, health, and especially mental health, should not be neglected: mobile psychosocial teams provide counselling services through emotional support and counseling sessions. Where necessary, disaster victims are referred to the relevant specialist services.   

Flood affected victim during an impact assessment in Benue State. Photo: IOM 2022/Elijah Elaigwu

The current holistic response in Nigeria is all the more impactful as IOM has been conducting assessments since the beginning of the rainy season. Thus, the organisation is deploying targeted interventions and avoiding duplication of services provided by aid actors. However, the situation in Nigeria is far from being an isolated case. Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone are also countries at particular risk. In recent years, flooding in West and Central Africa has been, along with windstorms, the most significant cause of disaster displacement. Investing in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation is therefore crucial for people to live with this variability.  

The floods that have occurred in the sub-region over the past ten years are the result of human actions on the environment. Indeed, anarchic land use and construction methods prevent the natural infiltration of rainwater. The lack of urban planning also leads to the saturation of drainage systems. This affects the overall hydrological regime and the permeability rate of the soil to rainwater. In Senegal, the situation has been getting worse in the last decade. Whereas previously 90 per cent of rainwater was absorbed by the soil and 10 per cent flowed away, now, the situation is reversed and only 10 per cent of the water is absorbed by the soil, with the same amount of rainfall.

In a West African context where 80 per cent of the population depend on natural resources for their livelihoods, mobility can be a strategy to compensate the lack of income and the uncertainties caused by floods. Migration and climate change are closely linked. The World Bank published the second part of its Groundswell report in 2021, which estimated that there would be 32 million internal climate migrants in West African countries by 2050, in the absence of concrete action on climate and development. The report predicts that with deep reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions and appropriate adaptation measures, internal migration could be reduced by 80 per cent.   

IOM advocates for an approach that considers migrants as actors of sustainable development, in order to properly accompany them in developing public policies that are connected to the realities experienced by communities and are solution-oriented. It is therefore essential to produce cross-cutting knowledge on migration and climate change. Climate change must be integrated into all areas of migration management, such as prevention, preparedness and response to displacement, border management, labour migration, integration, return and reintegration.