BENUE’S HELLISH WEEK AFTER FLOOD

Kogi’s vic­tims count losses Niger’s river­ine com­mu­ni­ties warned

Weekly Trust - - Front Page - Hope Abah, Makurdi

Pa Gbarka Gwaza, 86, could hardly walk up­right due to age, but rest­ing his weight on the metal rod which aids him to move around, he es­caped the flood which vi­o­lently washed his house away at Idye com­mu­nity, be­side the Zone 4 Po­lice Head­quar­ters in Makurdi. Baba, as the old man is fondly re­ferred to in the com­mu­nity where he has lived al­most all his life could now only hope in God, the gov­ern­ment and good-spir­ited in­di­vid­u­als to come to his res­cue. “The rains came down heav­ily and washed away my house, and since then we’ve been through hell. I’ve nowhere to turn to go to for help,” he said.

Pa Gwaza is among many oth­ers ad­versely af­fected by the flood who are not in a camp, but tak­ing refuge with rel­a­tives in other parts of the town, or just wan­der­ing around their ru­ined homes.

But, for 100-year-old Mama Kut­suwe Kwembe, a vic­tim of the flood in Gyado, a sub­urb of Makurdi, her children had man­aged to move her to fi­nally set­tle down to camp life as the state gov­ern­ment last week­end de­clared open the new Makurdi Ul­tra-Mod­ern In­ter­na­tional Mar­ket to serve as a tem­po­rary shel­ter for the dis­placed. The cen­te­nar­ian has suf­fered dis­place­ment by flood thrice in re­cent years, with her per­sonal be­long­ings and house­hold items washed away by the lat­est one.

Mama Kwembe’s daugh­ter told the vis­it­ing wife of the Gover­nor, Dr. Eu­nice Or­tom, that her mother who turned 100 last month had her home first de­stroyed by flood eight years ago. The weak-look­ing se­nior cit­i­zen, ac­cord­ing to her sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian daugh­ter, was also a vic­tim of the 2012 flood caused by the open­ing of Lagdo Dam in the Repub­lic of Cameroon.

Sim­i­larly, Mr. Joseph Wantu and his fam­ily of 12 are also among those worst-hit by the flood as his house, lo­cated op­po­site the Zone 4 Po­lice head­quar­ters, was sub­merged on Au­gust 27 and 30.

Wantu, the state cor­re­spon­dent of The Guardian news­pa­per, even had a near-death ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing the sec­ond episode of the flood last Wed­nes­day when he col­lapsed at his home while the wa­ter surged into his four-bed­room bun­ga­low through the front and back doors. He nar­rated his or­deal thus: “The rain started at mid­night. I had al­ready been stressed-out after the first flood on Sun­day, Au­gust 27, which took its toll on my house­hold as we were dis­placed. The wa­ter re­ceded the days fol­low­ing so we had just re­turned home when the down­pour be­gan heav­ily again in the early hours of Wed­nes­day. I be­came very rest­less when the rains started again. Soon, the en­tire house was flooded up to waist-level, and I guess it was at that point that I lost con­scious­ness. I was later told in the hos­pi­tal where I spent sev­eral days that my wife raised alarm, which at­tracted my neigh­bours, friends and children to the scene.”

He said his fam­ily was now count­ing their losses of house­hold items, elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ances, as well food­stuff.

By Wed­nes­day, Septem­ber 6, the State Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency (SEMA) told Daily Trust that 498 house­holds of dif­fer­ent sizes of fam­i­lies con­sisted of at least 5,000 peo­ple had been regis­tered at the camp, tem­po­rar­ily re­pur­posed mar­ket premises where com­mer­cial ac­tiv­i­ties are yet to com­mence in earnest, but had been made avail­able for the flood sur­vivors.

Our cor­re­spon­dent ob­served that the camp houses fam­i­lies dis­placed from Idye, High Level, Wu­rukum, Wa­data, Gyado Villa, Ter­wase Ag­badu and Kan­chio among other ar­eas of Makurdi Me­trop­o­lis. There is a heavy pres­ence of se­cu­rity per­son­nel at the camp.

Mrs. Yagpa James, 38, with her fam­ily of four children, now take shel­ter in the camp after be­ing dis­placed from their home at Idye com­mu­nity. “The camp is well-or­gan­ised and we are very com­fort­able here. We are re­ceiv­ing the best treat­ment here with ad­e­quate pro­vi­sion of wa­ter, light and food,” she said.

Yagpa nar­rated her fam­ily’s hellish or­deal and how they lost house­hold items to the flood as she ap­pealed to the state gov­ern­ment to build af­ford­able houses for flood vic­tims on higher ground so that they could per­ma­nently re­lo­cate from flood­prone ar­eas in or­der to avoid the yearly re­peat of trauma.

25-years-old and preg­nant, one Mercy Julius, her hus­band, and a child, fled their flooded vicin­ity to the camp two days after. But she is wor­ried about her trad­ing items de­stroyed by the flood and now her in­abil­ity to pay back the loan taken from LAPO Fi­nance Com­pany for the busi­ness which pro­vided liveli­hood for her fam­ily. “I sell food items such as beans, rice and garri. The items per­ished in the wa­ter. My hus­band, who is a welder, was af­fected by the flood which ru­ined the ma­chines he uses to work,” she told Daily Trust.

Mean­while, the Gen­eral Man­ager of the Benue State En­vi­ron­men­tal and San­i­ta­tion Au­thor­ity (BENSESA), Engr. An­drew Chile, said he was sat­is­fied with the ad­e­quate sup­ply of wa­ter, im­proved san­i­tary con­di­tion, hy­giene and best en­vi­ron­men­tal prac­tices avail­able. “We have given out 400 refuse bags out of the 1,000 on ground. We have also pro­vided vic­tims with toi­letries and enough toi­lets to ac­com­mo­date the pop­u­la­tion at the camp. Wa­ter sup­ply is ad­e­quate and we have be­gun to ed­u­cate peo­ple on ba­sic hy­giene.”

Chile added that the san­i­ta­tion agency swung into ac­tion to clear the over­grown grasses within the vicin­ity soon after the camp was des­ig­nated for the vic­tims and also put the 40 toi­lets lo­cated in the mar­ket.

Daily Trust gath­ered that four peo­ple are al­lot­ted a room based on the head of each fam­ily while the NEMA, Red Cross, BENGONET, NAPTP, Air Force Med­i­cal Team and Hu­man Rights of­fi­cials, among oth­ers are on ground to tackle var­i­ous is­sues.

The In­ter­na­tional Mar­ket was built by a for­mer Gover­nor, Gabriel Suswam, at the twi­light of his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

At the time of fil­ing this re­port, SEMA of­fi­cials dis­closed that the agency had re­ceived more mat­tresses from donors for dis­tri­bu­tion to vic­tims, but with pref­er­ences for the aged, children, preg­nant women and other vul­ner­a­ble groups.

Mr. Wantu’s house a day after the flood.

Elder Gwarza, a flood vic­tim

Food and other relief ma­te­ri­als be­ing dis­trib­uted to vic­tims

Other ac­tiv­i­ties at the Makurdi camp

Wife of the gover­nor, Mrs. Or­tom, sym­pa­thises with 100-year old Mama Kwembe

Mrs. Julius and her child at the camp

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