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Flooding| WHO on hand to support government mitigate disease outbreaks in hardest hit settlements of Kogi State

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Hectares of rice and other investments destroyed by the flood
Access Bank Plc

THUR, 03 NOV, 2022-theGBJournal| Nigeria is suffering widespread destruction from the flooding, affecting millions of people across 35 states.

From hilly areas to plains, the flood has washed away houses, infrastructure, crops and livestock.

When the floodwater levels started rising in his village, 48-year-old Mr Emos John and his wife were torn about what to do.

Leaving their land in the village (Ejulejebe Community in Ibaji Local Government Area, Kogi State), which they relied on for food, was a tough decision.

“The experience was terrible as I woke up at midnight and stepped into the water. 

“It was like a dream, and my family had to move. I lost my farmland of more than 5 hectares of rice and other investments worth N 500,000. The flood has chased my family from home, and I am currently jobless and facing financial hardship”, he said.

For the past few weeks, they have been living at a seminary located in Idah, in Kogi State, and the non-flooded seminary now houses about 178 people displaced by the flood.

During this period, John’s wife had a miscarriage losing her six-week pregnancy. 

“The loss of the pregnancy and sudden disruptions have been affecting me psychologically. Our farmland and almost all the buildings, including the health facility in our town, have been submerged. I am yet to hear from some of my elderly relations trapped in the flood because they refused to go out to Idah. I cannot reach my uncle’s 70-year-old widow to know her health condition”, he lamented.

Floods, large or small, can have devastating effects on people’s health. Nigeria is suffering its worst flooding in a decade, forcing millions of people from their homes. In Kogi state, the residents are doing their best to survive as farmlands, houses as well as over 90 health facilities have been flooded.

Reaching the vulnerable

Many villages are flooded, with displaced persons staying in tents, temporary facilities, or primary and secondary schools converted into internally displaced persons (IDP) camps.

Unlike Mr John and his family staying in the seminary, 46-year-old Aisha Abubakar and her family live in a school.

Mrs Abubakar said, “My family and neighbours are from Adonkolo village, Kogi State. Our properties were submerged, building collapsed, and our farmlands were destroyed. We now sleep on the floor, have no soap for washing and bathing, and limited menstrual hygiene commodities.

Mrs Abubakar said, “We rely on the government and its partners such as WHO, who supported with water supply and medication.

“Also, WHO has conducted series of sensitization activities on personal hygiene (bathing, washing clothes & plates), sanitation and preventive measures to prevent outbreaks of diseases like malaria, and Lassa fever, and cholera in the camp.

In turn, we have been abiding by the Infectious Prevention Control (IPC) method. We ensure regular washing, bathing and sweeping of room and surrounding and advise everyone to keep dirty plates or food around that can attract rats,” she said

Common risks associated with flooding include the contamination of drinking-water facilities by sewage, refuse waste and chemicals. Floods also lead to stagnant water, which can be a breeding site for mosquitoes and other vectors.

Also appreciating WHO’s intervention, Mr John, now the IDP coordinator at Idah, said WHO has facilitated health awareness on personnel hygiene, sanitation and other preventive measures to enable them to stay healthy.

“They provided mosquito net for us, provided mobile health services and sensitization on how we can prevent infectious diseases associated with flooding, poor sanitation and crowded areas”, he said.

Accessing the magnitude of the devastating effect of the flood, Kogi state Commissioner for Health, Dr Usman Zakari, said the flood has caused more havoc than in 2012.

Dr Zakari appreciated WHO and other UN agencies as well as other stakeholders for their support in mitigating the effect of the flood.

“Many people, including women and children, are currently displaced and health services are disrupted. It can increase the risk of outbreaks and snake bites”.

The state government is working with partners, including WHO, to reduce the impact of the flood on health services by providing health care services at temporary settlements. WHO has been supporting the state by providing leadership and coordination in collecting baseline data on the number of health facilities affected by the flood.

In Kogi, nine of the 21 local government areas (LGAs) are affected and 92 health facilities previously serving a catchment population of 338,408 are either partially (66) or completely (26) flooded, he said

Additional support

Many flood victims in Kogi State like John are suffering varying degree of physical, social; economic, emotional; and psychological stress. To relieve the situation, It is also providing emergency health kits, mobile medical teams and emergency health experts to support a multisector response to the flood disasters in affected states in Nigeria

In Kogi State WHO has distributed non-food item, including hygiene and mosquito nets, delivered 90 International Emergence Health Kits (IEHK-2017) estimated to treat 900,000 people in 3 months (300,000 per month) against communicable diseases in areas affected by the flood.

The WHO State Coordinator, Dr Sebastian Okwu said Rapid Response Team has been engaged for Emergency Response such as WASH and data management, 10 mobile health teams were deployed to the temporary shelters to provide health services, and three Management Support Teams were deployed to provide expertise, skills and strength with the emergency response system.

“The aid is important to prevent an outbreak of communicable diseases, provide continuous health services and interventions for the displaced persons living in makeshift and temporary shelters where diseases can spread more quickly given close living conditions,” he said

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