The month of April comes with the anticipation of the rainy season. Ideally, Nigeria has two distinct seasons: rainy and dry (harmattan) season. The seasons are normally distinct with the period of April to October for rainy season with a break in August and the dry season from November to March. In recent times, with the emergence of climate change, there have been a lot of concerns ranging from inconsistent seasonal changes, extreme weather conditions, increased sea levels to flooding which has left several parts of Nigeria including the Northern parts dealing with the aftermath of these climatic changes. At times like these, alerts on the likelihood of the intensity of the rains and flood prone areas are issued in different states to create awareness among the public and provide information on the impacts of flooding.
Flood can pose risks which could lead to exposure to hazardous substances, health hazards and contamination of public water supply, just to mention a few. All these can lead to drowning, electrocution, outbreaks of water borne diseases, and destruction of agricultural products, residential and commercial buildings. Other impacts of flooding include: shortage of food supply due to delayed harvest of some crops, leading to inflation of food price indices, increased cost of transportation and housing due to reinforcement works required to prevent flooding of residential areas.
The negative impacts of flooding can be minimized if certain control measures are taken and awareness is created to ensure people know what to do prior, during and after the flood.
The purpose of this article is to enlighten the public about the measures to be applied to mitigate the impacts of flooding in Nigeria.
In the last 2-3 years, Lagos, the Niger-Delta and some southern part of Nigeria has experienced torrential rainfall lasting for days during the rainy season with highest peak in July causing devastating effects and massive destruction of lives and properties. This has forced the State Governments to proffer solutions on combating flooding and advising residents in flood prone areas to relocate.
Contributing factors: The following are causative factors to flood risk
• Poor sanitation of surrounding environment.
• Dumping of household waste in drains or gutters.
• Improper disposal of waste in drains and gutter.
• Climate change leading to extreme weather conditions.
• Poor drainage facilities.
• Inadequate construction and planning of residential areas.
• Volume and run-off of storm water.
WHAT TO DO:
Prior to a flood
• Identify if you are in a flood prone area then provide reinforcements for your house.
• Ensure the surrounding environment is always clean; observe state and personal environmental sanitation.
• Proper disposal of waste should be maintained; always use a covered bin.
• Ensure prompt and regular collection of waste e.g. by Private Sector Participation (PSP).
• Take out an insurance cover for flood risk for your car, house and other valuable properties.
• Prepare an emergency plan and share with family and neighbours in case of evacuation.
• Ensure you have enough supplies of food, water and medications.
During a flood
• Turn off all electrical appliances.
• Ensure all windows and doors are closed to prevent water from entering the house.
• Stay indoors and only evacuate if it is safe.
• Have an emergency bag ready containing bottled water, canned food, medicines etc.
• If outdoors, seek shelter; minimize contact with electrical cables to prevent electrocution.
• If in a car, remain inside until it is safe to come out then look for a higher plane to take shelter.
• Avoid contact with floodwater to reduce exposure to health hazards and being swept away by flood.
What to do after a flood
• Start clean up of the affected area using appropriate Personal Protective Equipment such as gloves, boots and water resistant coverall.
• Do not eat or drink any edible items contaminated by the flood.
• Ensure building is assessed to determine the integrity before you re-occupy the house.
• Adequate repairs should be undertaken prior to moving back to reside in the affected home.
• Take photographs of damage(s) prior to clean up, for insurance claims.
• If injured during the flood ensure you get proper medical care in a hospital.
The health of individuals and the state of the environment after a flood are of concern to both the government and individuals therefore preventive measures should be put in place to ensure adequate controls are adopted.
In anticipation of the rains, individuals should invest in quality raincoats, umbrellas and wellington boots. They should always avoid exposure to rains and cold by keeping warm during the rainy season especially for children, elderly and immune-compromised people. The environment should be clean and clear of waste at all times to prevent over flow of the drains leading to floods where stagnant water which can be breeding grounds for vectors and other disease breeding organisms.
Climate change is a global concern that various organizations are working together to combat. The recent seasonal changes in Nigeria pose a great challenge in dealing with the impact of global warming. Is the government adequately equipped to deal with these problems? Are there enough resources to address these issues? How can we as individuals contribute to solving these problems? These are all unanswered questions that are lingering as State Governments set up committees to solve the problems and individuals reinforce their surroundings to ensure their safety in anticipation of yet another looming adversity.
Written by O’ Reese of En-pact Solutions Limited, 2013
Twitter: @O Reese2