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Flood Crisis in Nigeria is of Unprecedented Proportions, Aid Groups Warn

Millions affected as food, housing crisis worsen; Cholera outbreak looms

Common Dreams staff

People wade through a flood with their belongings after their houses were submerged in the Amassoma community in Bayelsa, Nigeria October 6, 2012. (Reuters/Tife Owolabi)

Historic flooding in Nigeria that has affected 7 million people, displaced 2.1 million and killed 363 between July and October of 2012, has become a disaster of unprecedented "scale or magnitude," according to Oxfam's deputy regional humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, Dierdre McArdle, who urged that the imminent massive food and disease crisis will require more help from international organizations.

The weather event, in tune with similar catastrophes of the changing climate this year, caused the worst flooding in five decades in the country.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan was late to declare the situation a state of emergency, and thus delayed relief funds and slowed disaster response, IRIN reports in coordination with the Guardian.

Aid agencies working in the country are now saying that the disaster requires more funding urgently and at this point will take six months or longer before improvements are made.

"Assessments were delayed. The scale of it is enormous…We had a lack of data, so no one has known how many were affected until now," said McArdle.

"Finding partners who have the capacity to deal with it is challenging."

Olusoji Adebowale Adeniyi, of the UN Children's Fund (Unicef), told IRIN, that the vastness of the disaster has now taken aid groups aback: "It is because it is so vast that it could not be addressed quickly," he stated. Currently the Nigerian government has a plan to address only 500,000 out of the 2.1 million people in need.

Agencies now involved, including Oxfam, Nema, and the UN, are expressing particular concern over food insecurity in the nation, which is now estimated to be "severe or very severe" in 82% of communities. When there is food, those prices have risen by 30-70%. Group Friends of the Earth stated that the flooding has been "catastrophic to crops," with the full extent of the damage to the harvest sill unknown.

Many displaced people are sleeping in camps, makeshift shelters, or make-due structures such as primary schools. Many are exposed to the elements. Additionally accounts of violence in the camps are rising, particularly violence against women, Oxfam is reporting.

Oxfam's McArdle added that there is a very high risk of a cholera outbreak, as most flooded communities lack clean water.

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