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A woman wades through floodwater in Nigeria

A resident of Gasamu wades through the floodwater in Yobe State, Nigeria on October 1, 2022. (Photo: World Food Program)

Climate Emergency Rages as More Than 600 Perish in Nigeria Floods

"This is a signal that it is time for the world to move away from fossil fuels, as rapid and deep emission cuts are needed to avoid catastrophic climate impacts," said a campaigner with 350Africa.org.

Jake Johnson

Nigerian emergency officials said Sunday that catastrophic flooding in the West African country has killed more than 600 people and displaced at least 1.3 million in recent weeks as a heavier-than-usual rain season—made more intense by the climate crisis—continues to pummel the impoverished nation.

Sadiya Umar Farouq, Nigeria's minister of humanitarian affairs, disaster management, and social development, said in a statement that more than 2.5 million people in the country have been impacted by the historic flooding, which has destroyed 82,000 homes and damaged over 100,000 acres of farmland, endangering food supplies.

"As our country plans to implement an energy transition plan, we urge the government to prioritize clean renewable energy."

Umar Farouq stressed Sunday that "we are not completely out of the woods," citing warnings from Nigerian meteorological that a number of states "are still at risk of experiencing floods" through the end of November.

"We are calling on the respective state governments, local government councils, and communities to prepare for more flooding by evacuating people living on flood plains to high grounds, provide tents and relief materials, fresh water, as well as medical supplies for a possible outbreak of water-borne diseases," Umar Farouq said.

The country's annual rain season began in June, but disaster officials say the death toll has risen sharply since August amid rapidly intensifying floods, which have been deemed the worst the nation has seen in decades. As Reuters reported, the destruction from the flooding accelerated following "water releases from the Lagdo dam in neighboring Cameroon."

"The heavy rains and resultant flooding currently being experienced in Nigeria are evidence of the extreme climate impacts primarily driven by fossil fuels, making our homes uninhabitable, endangering lives, health, and livelihoods," Michael Terungwa of the Coal Free Nigeria campaign said in a statement Monday.

"This is a signal that it is time for the world to move away from fossil fuels, as rapid and deep emission cuts are needed to avoid catastrophic climate impacts," Terungwa continued. "As our country plans to implement an energy transition plan, we urge the government to prioritize clean renewable energy and not false solutions such as fossil gas that will lead us down a perilous path."

Landry Ninteretse, regional director of 350Africa.org, noted that the Nigerian government's updated death toll and damage estimates were released less than a month before the COP27 climate talks in Egypt.

Ninteretse said that in light of the disastrous flooding, COP27 "must define a concrete operationalization plan to implement the Global Goal on Adaptation adopted last year in order to meaningfully support countries like Nigeria in their efforts to strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate impacts."

"We expect that developed nations will scale up funding for mitigation and adaptation as well as prioritize compensation for climate-induced loss and damage suffered by the nations most affected by the climate crisis," Ninteretse added.

As emergency relief efforts ramp up in Nigeria, Central Africa has also faced devastating flooding in recent months, with the World Food Program calling the "climate-related disaster" one of "the deadliest the region has seen in years."

"People are suffering because of changes to the climate that they did nothing to cause."

"In response, WFP is on the ground providing a three-month emergency assistance package targeting 427,000 flood-hit women, men, and children in critically affected countries including the Central African Republic, Chad, the Gambia, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, and Sierra Leone," the U.N. organization said in a statement Monday.

East Africa, meanwhile, has been ravaged over the past few months by the opposite of heavy rainfall: prolonged, deadly drought, another form of extreme weather made worse by the climate emergency.

Last week, Oxfam International warned that "one person is likely to die of hunger every 36 seconds between now and the end of the year in drought-stricken East Africa as the worst-hit areas hurtle towards famine."

"After four seasons of failed rains, people are losing their struggle to survive—their livestock has died, crops have failed, and food prices have been pushed ever higher by the war in Ukraine," said Parvin Ngala, regional director of Oxfam Horn East and Central Africa. "The alarm has been sounding for months, but donors are yet to wake up to the terrible reality... Failure to act will turn a crisis into a full-scale catastrophe."

"People are suffering because of changes to the climate that they did nothing to cause," Ngala added. "Rich nations which have done most to contribute to the climate crisis have a moral responsibility to protect people from the damage they have caused."


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