By Lizzy Okoji
Propped on the riverside is Patani – one of the communities hardest hit in Delta State by floods. Almost all its houses are submerged by water.
Along the Patani-Ughelli road, temporary shanties have been built for more than 1,600 people who have fled their homes since river waters rose almost three weeks ago. Although this protects them from the basic outside elements, it is far from the homes they fled from. The nylon tarpaulin tents are like incubators, absorbing the hot, midday sun. For people like Florence Apa who are disabled, the situation becomes even more challenging. Because she relies on her 15-year-old son to help her get around, she is restricted to her temporary shelter which becomes a sauna in the midday sun.
“For my condition, it is very difficult for me because when my son is out looking for what we would eat, I cannot get up to my wheelchair on my own,” Apa said.
“We are here not because we want to but because our houses have been flooded and this is the only option that we have.”
Her hope is that she and her son can find a place a bit more comfortable while they wait for the water to recede.
The camp is also sandwiched by a swamp, which puts people at risk of malaria and waterborne diseases such as typhoid and cholera.
Dr Michael Alawei, from the Patani Primary Health Care Centre who is in charge of the camp said that cases of malaria has been rising every day because of the stagnant water.
“At the moment, the most prevalent illness we have is malaria but because of the proactive measures we have taken, we have not recorded any mortality,” Dr.Alawei says.
“Although, we still need more malaria drugs, especially the injectables.’’
Some members of the Patani community whose homes are only partially submerged have been doing everything they can to save their belongings and prevent further damage to their house. Ebimo Kubu has wedged her veranda with sand bags to prevent water from coming into her house. Although she has resorted to scooping water from her front door to prevent more water from entering into her house, she has been able to remain in her home with her family.
“We have remained here because the camp is not conducive at all. They are at risk of the same health hazards like us,” says Ebimo.
Godspower Idogho, Nigerian Red Cross Coordinator in Patani Camp said that the society has been registering displaced people in the camp, helping in keeping the camp clean, conducting first aid as well as sensitizing communities on best hygiene practices, like hand washing and talks on preventing HIV and AIDs and the importance of knowing one’s status.
Approximately 18,000 houses have been destroyed by the floods and the shelter needs are immense. The IFRC has launched an appeal, seeking CHF 5.4 million to enable Nigerian Red Cross to respond to 300,000 of the most vulnerable people affected by floods. As part of the response, Red Cross is distributing essential household items to thousands of displaced families and will be supporting communities as they face reconstruction of their homes.