… Victims Count Losses
– Farmers Begin Rescue Mission for Crops
Though flooding in Anambra and some other states in Nigeria has become an annual event, this year’s has surpassed other years.
In previous years, after two weeks of flooding, the flood usually receded, giving victims who may have relocated to Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps the opportunity to move back to their homes to clean up and also check to know the state of their farms, reports Ikeugonna Eleke.
This year’s flooding which began in Anambra one month ago has not shown any sign of receding, just as more homes are being submerged on a daily basis, pushing up the number of victims who are relocating to IDP camps daily.
A recent visit to two IDP camps in Anambra East Local Government Area showed the level of pain most of the victims were undergoing.
In Umuoba Anam, hundreds of persons were seen living in a big hall, owned by a school management. While some had mattresses to sleep on, many others, especially women and children, used pieces of clothes spread on the floor.
A flood victim who spoke to journalists, Mr Emmanuel Okonkwor, said he was saddened over the condition of the victims there. ‘They lay on the bare floor and most of them are yet to receive anything from the government except what some individuals brought which they also need money to buy condiments, kerosene and firewood to prepare food which people eat once in a day,’ Okonkwor said.
In Mmiata Anam, Mrs Tina Okeke said she had been sleeping on the floor with her six children since the flood set in and forced them to relocate to the camp, while also saying that hunger had been a major challenge to them.
Meanwhile, the high number of deaths in the flood prone areas has been attributed to the unwillingness of most rural farmers to leave their farms and the produce in them to relocate to IDP camps.
A farmer in the area, David Ogbonna, who spoke to Fides during a visit to the flood prone areas, said, ‘You won’t understand, but it is difficult to just enter the boat and be taken to upland areas when you know that you have a house and property that you will be leaving behind.
‘Sometimes, these government people just see it that they have provided boat to rescue you, but the truth is that we consider the things we are leaving behind. Sometimes when you leave and water recedes, thieves may raid your house; even your crops in the farm.’
Offering another perspective, a candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Mrs Peace Obimuonso, said the human casualty being experienced as a result of the flood could have been averted if the people were guaranteed of a good camp with amenities, food, water and other basic needs.
‘All these deaths could have been averted if the people were sure of the source of their next meal. Most times, the farmers borrow money from local money lenders, which, if they fail to pay back when due, attracts heavy consequences. But because they know that leaving their homes and going to live refugee lives in camps is not the best, they now stay back to see what they can salvage of their crops.’
Fides however gathered that efforts were in top gear by farmers in Omor, Ayamelum Local Government Area, to rescue their crops from flood prone areas.
Mr Sunday Ejike who spoke to Fides in Awka, said, ‘I’m going to the village. We have a meeting, and we hope to commence ”operation rescue our crops”. Government doesn’t know what our people go through when flood comes. They just hope that you will quickly move to IDP camps, but our people are basically farmers. The crops we have spent time, energy and money growing will be under water. It is hard to leave.
‘Some people took loans to farm for the year; what will you tell the lenders? So, there is a meeting in the village to see how we can rescue some crops. The tendency is that most farm products may be harvested earlier than normal to avoid being further destroyed by flood.’
As the nation braces up for more flooding which is becoming an annual occurrence, Anambra State governor, Chukwuma Soludo, has called on the federal government to not only ensure that the offices of the National Emergency Management Agency are domiciled in the states, but to map out permanent measures to deal with the flooding, especially when it has become an annual occurrence.
He also urged the federal government to dialogue with Cameroon on the best ways to handle their dam which opening is believed to trigger flooding in parts of Nigeria.
The presidential candidate of Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, for his part, while touring some flooded sites in Benue State, called on the federal government to do more, both for the victims and in containing the menace. This was also as he called on fellow candidates to suspend their campaign and first render help to the flood victims.
As Nigerians hope for the floods to finally recede, the hope is also that the governments across the states will come up with better plans to prevent or manage the floods.
Additional reports from Jude Atupulazi.