The last may not have been heard about the devastating effects of the current flooding that has ravaged different parts of Nigeria. In a recent statement, the United Nations (UN) noted that the flooding was expected to shoot up the already estimated 19.5 million people considered to be suffering food insecurity in the country. The Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mathias Schmale, was reported to have said that climate change was real and affecting millions of people in Nigeria.

Over the past week, Schmale added, he spoke with people that had lost all their possessions as a result of devastating floods during visits to Adamawa in the North-East and Anambra in the South-East. According to him, Anambra, with over a quarter of all affected people, is most affected by the worst floods in Nigeria for more than a decade. The flooding has also attacked many food-producing states in the North Central zone and other states along the river banks. Many houses, schools, shops were said to have been submerged. Staples like rice, cassava, plantain, yam and many others have also been destroyed. Livestock are not spared. Many people were displaced as they are now in various Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.

In statistical terms, the 2022 flooding has reportedly affected about 34 states, impacted over 2.5 million people, killed over 600 people and forced over 1.5 million others to leave their homes. More than 200,000 houses have been either partially or fully damaged. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of farms including crops have been damaged. From the look of things, the effect of this year’s flooding is likely going to be worse than the flood devastation of 2012 which cost over N2 trillion in losses.

A typical example of the havoc the flood caused is the destruction of the largest rice farm in Nigeria, the 45,000 hectares of Olam Rice Farm in Nasarawa state. This loss amounts to about $15 million. Smallholder farmers, who account for about 88 per cent of Nigerian farmers, are the worst affected.  This scenario has posed serious danger to food security in the country because even when the flooding recedes, the land may not be suitable for cultivation for a long time. Of course, poor quality of soil engendered by flooding produces nothing but low quality and low nutrient food.

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Schmale lamented that “the staggering devastation caused by the current floods in Nigeria and the profound impact on people’s lives are a stark reminder of the humanitarian, development and socio-economic cost of the climate crisis on people who do the least to contribute to climate change.” Before the flooding, food insecurity occasioned by the Russia/Ukrainian war, insecurity and high exchange rate, had posed a serious danger to Nigerians. In 2021, for instance, seven out of 10 Nigerians reportedly did not have enough food to eat as food production was below demand. Earlier this year, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP), in a joint report, stated that food crisis had tightened its grip on Nigeria and 18 other countries. In a report last year, a United Kingdom-based think tank, the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), ranked Nigeria as the second poorest country in food affordability in the world. The country is only better than Syria. Our country is also among the top 10 hunger ravaged countries in the world. The worst affected states are in the North. It is pertinent to note that this flooding also poses a serious risk to the health of the citizens. Without good and balanced diet that gives the necessary nutrients and fights illnesses, diseases and deaths will become rampant.  Already, there is cholera outbreak which has reportedly killed over 400 people across the country since January. 

There is every need to assist victims of this flood disaster. For many of them, the immediate need is shelter and food. They also need financial assistance, potable water, and seeds to start off again when the floods recede. State Emergency Management Agencies (SEMA) and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) have a strong role to play in helping the victims to mitigate the effects of this crisis.  The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent deserves commendation for issuing a flood emergency appeal of $13 million to provide assistance to the victims in many states. Other organisations and international bodies should emulate this gesture.   There is need to find a permanent solution to this menace. The Federal Government, for instance, should ensure the dredging of major rivers which contribute to this flooding.

Government should build more dams to harvest the flood waters and such body of waters can be used for crop and fish farming. With adequate dams in place, farmers in Nigeria can readily embrace farming in all seasons. In the interim, government should help farmers to engage in dry-season farming to reduce the losses they incurred. It can also open the grain silos to cushion the effect of food shortage.