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Many schools close in Nigeria’s worst flooding in half a century

The huge scale of the flooding in Nigeria between July and October is only now being fully realised as the country begins to assess the damage.

33 of Nigeria’s states have been affected by the disaster, which killed over 360 people and displaced over 2 million. And with damage to buildings and losses to crops, an estimated 7 million people are believed to have been affected. The president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, has promised 110 million dollars in flood relief.

Aid agencies working in Nigeria are finding it difficult to respond quickly given the extent of the damage. Speaking to the news agency IRIN, a spokesperson for Oxfam said that due to the scale of the disaster, it was a challenge “finding partners who have the capacity to deal with it”. Responding to a question about the late response of the Nigerian government and agencies to the flooding, the Oxfam deputy regional humanitarian coordinator said that there had been a general “lack of data, so no one has known how many were affected until now”.

Through the government’s disaster preparedness plan, around half a million people are being given assistance. But this leaves another 1.5 million in need of help. Many families are still camping out in temporary evacuation sites or using public buildings such as schools. Over half the schools in 14 states have also been badly damaged and are currently unusable.

There is concern about the risk of disease. Many families are without mosquito bed nets to protect against malaria. And in some places, sanitation is extremely poor, with large numbers of displaced people sharing just a few toilets. With a general shortage of clean water, locals are also relying on streams and open wells and experts worry that outbreaks of cholera could easily occur.

Food supplies are also a worry, with prices rising 30% to 70% in some flood-hit regions. In Warri, for example, in the Delta State, a bag of rice now fetches 70 dollars, compared to 57 dollars earlier in the summer. Aid agencies say that in four out of every five communities they visit, people are suffering from “severe or very severe” food insecurity. Food rations in the displacement camps are also irregular. Several agencies, including the UN’s Child agency UNICEF and the Nigerian Red Cross are delivering aid and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has also sent a team to help support Nigerian officials in the coordination of information and response to the needs of the displaced.

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