Feature

Floods sweeping confusion, chaos into Nigerian homes

Rainy seasons bring tears and sorrow to most residents of Nigeria. Another worrisome part is whenever it rains, flood sweeps chaos and confusion into most homes. ISIOMA MADIKE reports

Last week, roads and houses were flooded and property worth millions of naira destroyed in Lagos after a-two downpour, which lasted for hours. It caught many residents and passengers unaware as they ran to uncompleted buildings and shelter stands to avoid being soaked. Ikosi and Kosofe areas of Ketu, parts of Surulere, Ogba, Ikorodu, especially Ishawo area as well as Ojodu-Berger and Isheri residents had it rough as the rains was said to have pounded those areas without mercy.

Residents had to roll up trousers to walk on the streets to avoid being smeared, and motorists had to wade through waterlogged roads. In Ondo, a Junior Secondary School student of Mount Carmel Girls School, Ikare Akoko, the headquarters of the Ikare Akoko Local Government Area of Ondo State, identified as Motunrayo John, was reportedly swept away.

Asaba, the Delta State capital was not spared either, as major streets in the metropolis were literally turned to swimming pools causing heavy traffic for both motorists and commuters alike. Up North, the story was the same. Houses, roads and bridges were said to have been flooded in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city. Parts of the Lokogoma district and other areas, according to reports, were inaccessible during the rain which lasted for hours.

The flood, reports say, also caused gridlock in Kaura district, Galadimawa, and other areas in the city as major roads were taken over. Some affected routes were listed as Lokogoma to Gudu junction and Shell cooperative through NCDC Lab to Gaduwa Estate. As a result, residents of Lokogoma district were full of tales of woes. Many buildings were said to have been submerged. Some residents in Lagos recounted their sour experiences to this reporter. A landlord at Omojuwa Estate in the Kosofe-Mile 12 area said his home went underwater. “It has become a yearly ritual as nothing is being done to ameliorate our sufferings here,” he added.

“I was in the office and didn’t know that my home had been flooded. Although whenever it rains like this, the whole estate is always flooded with muddy water, which, somehow, finds its way to many homes. We have to use a canoe to move around the flood, especially at the entrance of the estate. Rainy seasons bring tears to us. It’s that bad.” Earlier, Nigeria’s Meteorological agency (NiMet), had predicted heavy rainfall in parts of the country this year. The rain, according to NiMet, is expected to be accompanied by strong winds, lightning and thunder. NiMet had warned people to brace up for what was to come.

“As a result of the expected moderate to heavy rainfall in Nigeria, there are chances of flash flooding of roads and low-lying settlements,” the agency said. It added that “there could be disruption of traffic due to flooded or closed roads, reduction in visibility, likely damage to mud houses and possible disruption in flight operations. “The rain is expected to be accompanied by strong winds, lightning and thunder, hence the falling of weak buildings and displacement of makeshift structures are likely.”

The agency nonetheless advised the public to exercise restraint, disconnect electrical appliances before, not during the storm, and avoid standing or parking cars under trees as much as possible. It also advised the public to be prepared for these events to avoid damage from rain-related hazards. Medical doctors had also warned Nigerians of the danger of not using the long-lasting insecticidal nets freely distributed by government and non-governmental agencies to combat the scourge of malaria, said to be the most prevalent disease in the country. The medics said it is expedient to use mosquito nets, especially in this time of rain.

Former Commissioner for Health in Lagos, Dr. Jide Idris, said the safe and effective nature of treated nets in combating mosquitoes and other harmful insects explained the community interventions of the state in the past. He noted that the cosmopolitan nature of the state coupled with the abundant distribution of coastal areas encouraged the development of stagnant water responsible for the breeding of anopheles mosquitoes.

This, he said, contributes to the stable pattern and continuous transmission of malaria all year round. A Public Health Physician / Epidemiologist, Prof. Bayo Onajole, also pointed out that malaria has been a major sickness that causes death, particularly in the tropical region of which Nigeria belongs. According to him, treated mosquito nets are effective in saving lives. He said: We will be saving the cost of sickness, death, and absenteeism. Malaria, we should also know, affects mostly under-5 children and pregnant women.

We have a lot of pregnant women, who have died. So, I believe that if we can lay our hands on preventive measures like the net, it will go a long way in helping our wellbeing. “Also, the use of insecticides should not be jettisoned; this is because the mosquito, which acts as the vector for malaria, can also cause other diseases like Yellow Fever. By adhering to all these preventive measures, we will succeed in preventing other diseases. The reason we must not discard those environmental measures is because we are in the rainy season now.” However, Saturday Telegraph has traced the non-usage of the treated nets to the fear of infections and severe adverse reactions allegedly associated with it.

Ade, five, struggled to free himself from the mesh of the Long Lasting Insecticide Net (LLIN) draped over his spring bed. He had just woken from a mosquito-free sleep but as he struggled, his best effort seemed to get him into deeper trouble. Monsuratu, his mother, reached out, disentangled him and folded the net, carefully placing it on the railings of the bed.

It will be unfolded again at night and draped over Ade’s bed once again when he goes to sleep. Such a seemingly tiring daily ritual can keep Ade alive and protected from malaria, the number one killer of children in these tiny slums like the Small Kuramo, in the Jakande/ Ajah axis of Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State. According to a World Bank Malaria Control Booster Project report, one out of every three children under-5 years dies of malaria in developing countries of which Nigeria is one of them.

Ade is five and has been sleeping under a mosquito net since 2020. As he stepped down from the bed, he stretched, yawned and reached out for a steaming bowl of ‘Koko,’ a staple breakfast meal made of ground millet. The long-lasting insecticide nets, according to medical experts, have proved more efficient than the conventional Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) because they do not need re-treatment and have a life span of three to five years.

Monsuratu was given an insecticide treated net a few years ago but it has not been re-treated and is rather worn out; although it is still being used. In poor neighbourhoods like Small Kuramo, it is common for families to continue to use conventional insecticide nets without proper re-treatment; this reduces their effectiveness considerably.

One of the reasons is that the chemicals for re-treatment are not readily available and have a cost that families cannot always afford. This, however, may be the reason the government has continued to stress the importance of LLIN, particularly those living in mosquito-prone localities and at such seasons like this. But investigations have shown that many residents of such neighbourhoods have dumped the nets freely distributed to them via primary health centres to combat the scourge of malaria.

This recent attitude follows allegations of severe adverse reactions, body itching and rashes, which they claimed to have experienced shortly after sleeping under the net. Mrs. Abike Balogun, who lives at the popular Oluwole Housing Estate, Ogba, an outskirt of Lagos, told Saturday Telegraph that she and her friends had not been using the nets since they were given in July, 2014. This, accord-ing to her, was because of the adverse reactions experienced by one of her neighbours who had been using the net since 2013. Balogun narrated how she was once woken up in the middle of the night by the wailings of her neighbour, a woman, and her two children.

“They complained of intense itching and the whole neighbourhood had to gather to assist by rubbing palm oil all over their body. We also heard that the net had killed someone in Agege early this year. Although we cannot verify that one, some people said it was a rumour. But one has to be careful since life has no duplicate,” she added. However, Balogun is not alone in her fears. A petty trader, Mrs. Elizabeth Nwaka, also told this reporter that many people in her neighbourhood have stopped using the LLIN following another rumour that a baby died from inhaling the chemical in the net. Nwaka lives in the Akute area of Ogun State. She denied the claims that the baby’s mother did not comply with the instructions given to her.

“The woman spread it out for three days to lessen the effect of the chemical as instructed by the health officials when she went to collect it. Yet, the child died after one week of usage from the effect of the chemical in the net. Many people believed the baby must have inhaled much of the chemical on the net. Those already using it had to throw theirs away while some of us who had not started, never bother to try it again,” she said. Nigeria is said to have the highest number of malaria cases in the world, contributing 23 per cent to the global malaria burden, according to available statistics.

In view of the high prevaback lence, the Federal Government has consistently advocated the use of long-lasting insecticidal nets as the most effective way to combat the scourge. The states have also keyed into this programme. Insecticide treated nets are low cost and are said to be a highly effective way of reducing the incidence of malaria in people who sleep under them.

This, according to medical experts, has been conclusively shown in a series of trials to substantially reduce child mortality in malaria-endemic areas. By preventing malaria, treated nets reduce the need for treatment and the pressure on health services, which is particularly important in view of the increase in drug resistant falciparum malaria parasites. This realisation has made the promotion of treated nets the core of malaria eradication programme through free distribution in addition to other methods recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The other methods include IRS, Intermittent Preventive Treatment (ITP) for pregnant women, and Rapid Diagnostic Test (Ruts) kits.

This massive distribution, if achieved, will be the largest in history in any known part of the world. It is expected to reach 80 per cent of pregnant women and children below five years in the country. However, there is the fear that the huge expenses on the nets may go down the drain unless the government urgently addresses the widespread rumours and concern about its use across the country. Malaria has remained a major public health problem in Nigeria. It accounts for over 60 per cent outpatient visits and 30 per cent hospital admissions, according to medical records, in Nigeria.

The disease has impacted and continued to impact negatively on the economy with about N132 billion said to be lost to the disease as cost of treatment and loss in manhours annually. Malaria is an infectious disease caused by the parasite genus plasmodium.

The four identified species of this parasite causing human malaria are plasmodium falciparum, plasmodium vivax, plasmodium ovale and plasmodium malariae. In Nigeria, 98 per cent of all cases of malaria are due to plasmodium falciparum.

This is the species that is responsible for the severe form of the disease that leads to death. It is transmitted from bites of an infected female anopheles mosquitoes to man. This makes the disease highly endemic in the country. It poses, according to the authorities, a major challenge to the country as it impedes human development. It is said to be both a cause and consequence of underdevelopment and remains one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the country. It is also said to be responsible for 29 per cent of childhood death, 25 per cent of infant mortality and 11 per cent of maternal mortality. The most vulnerable groups are under-5, pregnant women, visitors from non-endemic areas, those with sickle cell anaemia, and HIV/AIDS patients. The rain came earlier than expected this year.

It started giving signs in the first week of March but gradually but steadily peaked towards the end of that month. Now, it appears to have come back again in full force, and as always, it is bad news for most residents. Worries increase not only for inhabitants but also for visitors to the country, who take a drive around the cities each time it rains. Since last week after three heavy rains, many parts of the country went back to a familiar path. The people are recounting their sad experiences of the past and are afraid of what the next weeks and months have in stock for them.

Whenever it rains, flood sweeps chaos and confusion into many homes. While many groan under the tidal waves, houses and vehicles submerge in the continuing downpours. It was gathered that the failed portions of the roads also contribute to the flooding that has inundated parts of the country of late. According to a resident in Ogba, Lagos, who declined to be identified, “our streets have turned into ‘oceans’ to the extent that flood is flowing into our houses.” This may explain why there is anger everywhere.

A lot of residents, especially in Lagos, are depressed; others wailing. They typically roll up their trousers to walk on the streets to avoid being smeared, while motorists and other pedestrians wade through the ocean-like streets. At junctions of feeder streets in most parts of the sprawling former capital city, are heaps of used water sachets and debris percolated by shallow floods that found inadequate avenues of normal flows blocking the broken canals and waterways. Some are overgrown with weeds; others filled with refuse heaps.

Such sights within the metropolis, Saturday Telegraph was told, are now legendary. The roads, apart from being riddled with huge potholes and gullies, have been narrowed to single lanes due to the mammoth refuse congealed by rain water whose passage is inhibited by blocked drains. As it rains, the flood sweeps the refuse to the middle of the roads, making movement of any kind difficult. Lagos, however, appears to be a reflection of the sorry state the country has become. The state, residents said, has lost its excellence to putrefaction, filth and flood. The outskirts are equally pathetic sites to behold in this season.

They often turn to mini-swimming pools each time it rains. Flooding in those areas is so severe that many cars get submerged in it, resulting in a long stretch of vehicles on both sides of major pathways. This makes motorists spend hours navigating the difficult terrain. It is still a puzzle that a major epidemic has not broken out in many of the state’s neighbourhoods, given the mountains of refuse that dot the landscape. Tales of flooded houses, loss of property, several hours of traffic jams and streets completely taken over by garbage are now common.

Indeed, for Lagos and other Nigerian residents, living is now a harrowing experience. Apart from bad roads, collapsed bridges in many communities have added to the disaster the country has become as they are now a source of nightmare to residents.

 

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