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Thursday, May 23, 2024

In Southern Nigeria, Non-Profits Restore Hope To Flood Victims


Arinze Chijioke

Following the 2022 flooding, the worst in a decade, 662 people lost their lives while over 2 million people were displaced, according to data by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). To cushion the impact on vulnerable households in Delta State–Nigeria’s oil-rich region, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Nigeria, led the implementation of emergency assistance for people affected by floods in the region.
As Ufoma Amatevwere, a resident of Odorubu Community in Delta State, Southern Nigeria was leaving her house one morning in September 2022, the structure was still standing. She had gone to one of her farm locations to check on her crops.
“As I approached the house after the day’s work, I noticed that the structure was no longer standing,” she recalled.  “The floods had destroyed my property, including my clothes and that of my children and aged mother,”.
“I did not know what to do and where to go, I could not believe my eyes, “she said.  “That same day, I picked whatever I could from the rubble and carried my four children and my mother to the main road in our community where I prepared a makeshift tent,”.
The following day, she got on a Canoe and went to check the Cassava, Potato and Plantain she had planted in her community and saw that they had been covered by the floods too.
Pre-Disbursement-sensitization-in-Kpakiama-community (Photo Credit- JDPC Bomadi Diocese)
In the aftermath of the flooding in 2022, at least 78,640 individuals in 12,070 households in Delta State, were affected, according to International Organization for Migration (IOM).  Among the communities worse hit were Amatevwere’s community in Pantani town and Kpakiama in Bomadi which lie on the bank of the Forcados River. In these lowland areas, houses were completely submerged and farms destroyed, threatening livelihoods.
“I thought my world had come to an end, “she said. “Me and my family spent two months on the road and whenever it rained, it fell on us,”. “My children fell sick severally and with no money, I could not treat them,”. It was also difficult for us to feed and my husband was not willing to help out,”.
“One day this February, as I was sitting in the house I rented after the flood receded, some people came and said that they were collecting names of community members who were affected by flooding for help, “recalled Amatevwere.
The CRS had partnered with the Justice Development and Peace Commission of the Bomadi Diocese in Delta State to provide food and non-food items to households under the Emergency Assistance for People Affected by Flood in Nigeria project.
Distribution of ATM cards to Beneficiaries Kpakiama community (Photo Credit – JDPC Bomadi Diocese)
A total of 350 households severely affected by the flood were selected in Odorubu, Amatevwere’s community and Kpakiama, another community to benefit from the initiative which was funded by Latter-day Saint Charities (LDS Charities), a humanitarian nonprofit, providing succour for millions of families around the world.
“As I gave my name and other details, I was not expecting anything, I had already given up hope on life, “she said. “But weeks later, the list of those that will benefit came out and I saw my name and had an account opened and money paid into it, I could not believe my eyes,”.
With the money she got, Amatevwere is rebuilding her house again and has also established a foodstuff business in her community for a sustainable means of income.
“I am grateful because I did not know where to get help, “an excited Amatevwere said in front of her house. “I did not know about the church and did not meet anybody, I was just selected,”.
Like Amatevwere, the floods destroyed Mienghankeremene Durude’s Cassava farm and submerged her house and her property. She started sleeping inside her shop with her six children.
“Soon, the shop was submerged and we moved to the roadside where we constructed a makeshift tent,” she said.  “That was where we slept for two months, me and my children fell sick due to exposure to rain”.
Continuing, she said, “feeding also became difficult for us, I had to start fishing and hunting for snails,”. “The whole burden was on me because my husband was not willing to help me and the children, sometimes, I borrowed for us to eat,”.
Validation of Beneficiaries in Odorubu Community
When the team from JDPC came to Durude’s house, she almost chased them away.
“That was not the first time that we are having people coming to make promises and failing to fulfil them, “she said. “But on a second thought, I gave my name and allowed them take my picture,”.
“The day I saw my name on the list of beneficiaries, I almost ran mad, “she recalled. When the money came in, I used part of it to settle debts and also bought bags of cement and sand to fill my shop to prevent it from being flooded,”. I also bought Rice, Beans for us to have food at home,”.
To determine what measures to adopt, Anselm Nwoke, CRS’s partnership and capacity-strengthening coordinator in Nigeria said that the NGO did market assessment and financial feasibility studies on whether or not the communities still had markets and whether it was possible to give people money and the result was positive.
He said that when emergency situations such as flooding occur, it affects the most vulnerable people in society and so, the primary concern at CRS is how to provide immediate relief to these people.
Beneficiary selection
Fr. Zachariah Fufeyin, Director of JDPC in Bomadi said that the process of selection of beneficiaries began with a visit to the communities to inform stakeholders about the project after which data was collected, using the CommCare application which made the selection process easy and transparent.
While over 600 households were registered, those who were the hardest hit, like aged and widowed women, pregnant women and people living with disabilities were selected, with each of them receiving two-tranche cash transfers and a one-time non-food item (NFI) assistance.
“The communities were (are) happy with the project which has helped to take care of their basic needs and provide succour after the devastating floods last year, “he said. “We have visited to ensure that the people are putting the money to good use,”. 
In Kpakiama, the fund helped families settle debts
Charity Godwin, a resident of Kpakiama Community planted Potato, plantain, Okro and Cassava on her farm, but she could not rescue anything when the floods came.
“My house and everything inside it were destroyed,”she recalled.  “Some days, we went without food because everything was expensive and each time food was shared on the roadside, it did not get to us because people were much,”.
“The situation was unbearable because my husband was also sick and so, I was the only one struggling to ensure that we had food, no matter how little,”. I was not confident when the JDPC team came to take our names but I gave it and fortunately, I was selected,”.
As soon as Godwin received her money, she paid her son’s school fees at St Charles Boromeo Minor Seminary Imiringi. She also used part of the money to buy food for her family and Chemicals for the farm where she planted Potatoes and Cassava this February. She said it is not as big as the one she lost to the floods in 2022.
The traditional ruler of Kpakiama community, HRH. Bunu Abakederimo said that he did not expect that the church could help the poor. He said that the assistance has given his people a sense of belonging and restored their lost hope after the devastating flood.
“We had given up because we did not see help coming from anywhere, even the government, “he said. “This means a lot to my people and they have continued to express their happiness,”.
It shows the church cares about humanity
The Catholic Bishop of Bomadi, Most Rev. Hyacinth Egbebo said that the flood assistance project is helping the people to stand on their feet again and has also given the church an aura of importance and firms up its messages of hope to the people.
Catholic Bishop of Bomadi, Most Rev. Hycinth Egbebo (Photo Credit JDPC Bomadi Diocese)
“The people know that the church represents something of quality, a God that is charitable and provides for them in their time of need, “he said. “It wets the ground for us to preach the word of God to the people and have them listen because a hungry man cannot hear the message,”.
He said that the beneficiaries are even happier because it was not just members of the Catholic Faith who were selected but the downtrodden who were badly impacted by the floods.
“I must appreciate the CRS and the Latter-Day Saints Charities for their efforts and the genuineness of the approach because it is not like the government’s way of doing things where those who already have been given more while the needy are abandoned, “he said.
He, however, said that the fact that flooding is perennial is bad news, hence there is a need for more collaboration between donors and the church which is accountable and transparent and can be probed.
In Kpakiama and other communities, residents are already bracing up, following the warning that severe flooding could be witnessed in 32 states and the FCT. They are harvesting their crops earlier than they should.


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