Widowed and Homeless, Internally Displaced Nigerian Women Recount Devastating Flood Experiences
From a distance, the Tse Yandev Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camp in the Benue State capital of Makurdi appears to be large mounds of sand on top of freshly tilled soil.
However, looking closely, you will notice countless huts made of worn-out insecticidal mosquito nets supported by palm fronds. Each household sticks to its own hut no matter the number of family members, and children, as usual, were clinging to their mothers. The anguished cries and wails of the children, perhaps unprovoked from different quarters, speak of the harsh weather they found themselves in. At the center of the camp is a big hollow caused by erosion.
In October 2022, 37-year-old Paulina Bako from Mbagwen, Guma Local Government Area (LGA) lost her three-year-old son, Jeremiah Fanen, to the devastating flood in Wadata. This came on the heels of losing her husband, James Bako, then 39 years old, a year before during the Fulani crisis in her community. Bako, married with four kids, now lives in the Tse Yandev IDP camp due to the flooding.
She narrates how she lost her son to the flood: “I went to the Ukoho Farmers Cooperative Society an hour away and left my child alone inside the house. I didn’t come back early, so when the rain started falling he got caught by the floods. He couldn’t run because he was asleep, and our neighbor didn’t catch him immediately. Although he didn’t die instantly, by the time we took him to the general hospital he was pronounced dead because we were not there early enough.”
“I used to find solace in the fact that this boy would grow to be my smile one day since I lost my husband to the attacks.”
“It pains me a lot. It’s very hard to talk about. I am no longer a happy woman, I used to find solace in the fact that this boy would grow to be my smile one day since I lost my husband to the attacks. Any time I am alone, I am either crying or sobbing. I am confused anytime I am even walking on the road. With that, I was advised here in the camp to stay around people often.”
Nigeria experienced severe and devastating floods in 2022: as reported by the People’s Gazette, all 36 states including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were affected. Sadiya Umar Farouq, the Nigerian Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (FMHDSD), estimated in January 2023 that almost five million people were affected, with the country suffering an estimated $6.68 billion.
In October 2022, the FMHDSD estimated over one and a half million internal displacements, 2,776 injuries, and 612 deaths; over 300,000 houses were partially or completely damaged. The agency claimed that the widespread flooding was prompted by extreme rainfall coupled with the release of water from the Lagdo Dam in Cameroon. Within Benue State, which borders Cameroon to the southeast, as reported by Vanguard in October 2022, no fewer than 24 persons lost their lives in the state’s 12 LGAs to the surging floods, while 74 others sustained serious injuries. Over 18,000 households were affected by the floods, of which roughly one-tenth were lost or submerged, rendering over 130,000 people homeless.