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Nigeria floods kill hundreds, displace millions


Nigeria is suffering its worst flooding in a decade, with vast areas of farmland, infrastructure, and 200,000 homes partly or wholly destroyed.

Then there are the lives that have been lost.

At least 603 people have died, more than 2,400 other people injured and more than 1.4 million displaced. For some states, more than a month of floods is likely still to come.

Residents of affected states carry their belongings up to the tops of their houses and get around by canoe on roads now deluged with water. Trucks full of food and fuel become stuck for days. In some areas, water levels are almost up to the eaves of the West African country’s distinctive pitched, painted metal roofs, making them appear to float. In other places, the tops of cars are just visible, but the water around them ripples with raindrops, closing in fast.

The rain is not the only factor.

Every year, neighboring Cameroon — which runs along the length of Nigeria’s eastern border — releases water from a dam in northern Cameroon, causing flooding downstream in Nigeria. At the time of the dam’s construction, in the 1980s, the two countries agreed that a twin dam would be built on the Nigerian side to contain the overflow. But the second one was never realized.

Nigeria’s minister of humanitarian affairs, Sadiya Umar Farouq, blamed the scale of the disaster on the failure by branches of government other than her own to take action. “There was enough warning and information about the 2022 flood, but states, local governments and communities appear not to take heed,” the minister wrote on Twitter.

Another critical factor is climate change.

Matthias Schmale, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator for the country, said in a briefing last week that this largely explains the extreme flooding.

“Climate change is real, as we are yet again discovering in Nigeria,” he said.

The phenomenon is causing ruin across Africa, and as the continent is heavily dependent on agriculture, the effects are particularly devastating economically.

Nigeria, which is by far Africa’s most populous country with more than 200 million people, lists in a national climate policy document droughts, poor air quality, imperiled human health, and habitat loss alongside floods as the effects of climate change.

A recent paper on climate justice by the nonprofit Africa Center together with the Energy for Growth Hub, a Washington research institute, says almost all African countries have contributed “essentially nothing” to climate change. On the other hand, it says, the United States, the European Union, China, India and Russia are the big emitters of carbon, known to contribute to climate change. But despite pledges to help fund climate adaptation in Africa, rich nations have, so far, produced very few funds, high-level African officials say.

Developments from the floods in Nigeria.

— Twenty-seven of Nigeria’s 36 states are affected by the floods.

— The Benue River broke its banks in the city of Lokoja on Oct. 13.

— More than 2.5 million people are affected, the country’s minister of humanitarian affairs said, and hundreds of thousands are beyond the government’s reach. The devastation comes as people are dealing with food inflation of 23%.

— In 2012, when the country last experienced flooding on this scale, the damage was estimated at $17 billion.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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