ABUJA, Nigeria (HPD) — Ocheiga Enoch is not expecting a big rice harvest in central and northern Nigeria after floods submerged his fields and those of many other farmers this season.
Many in Benue state, known as the country’s “pantry”, are now in the unusual situation of setting up seedbeds for next season when they should be harvesting the current crop.
“The kind of suffering we are going through right now is terrible,” Enoch said, referring to the floods, which are the worst in Nigeria in more than a decade after killing more than 600 people and forcing 1.3 million residents to flee. their houses.
Higher-than-usual average rainfall and devastating floods have affected five million people in 19 nations in central and western Africa this year, according to a new situation report from the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).
In Chad, the government declared a state of emergency this week after floods affected more than a million people.
“This catastrophe resulting from climate change is one of the most serious that the region has known in years, acting as a multiplier of misery for communities that already have problems to survive,” said the interim leader of Chad, Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno .
The disaster has worsened the fortunes of this Central African nation already facing a food crisis, said Mbaindangroa Djekornonde Adelph, a country analyst.
Nigeria has reported at least 600 deaths while authorities in neighboring Niger said at least 192 people have died there as a result of the storms, either by their homes collapsing or drowning.
The floods have already caused “a significant increase in cases of cholera and other preventable diseases in Nigeria,” the NGO International Rescue Committee warned in a statement Friday, calling for more resources to ramp up its response.
Experts point to unusual rainfall and governments, which failed to set up early warning systems to improve preparedness for extreme weather events, as the culprit.
The floods in West Africa “are mainly due to the negligence of governments in matters related to the environment, such as climate change, for a certain time,” said Ibrahim Raji, a climate researcher focused on the region. The situation “comes down to the government’s reluctance to address environmental problems.”
Long before the floods and the Russian war in Ukraine, the region was suffering its worst food crisis in a decade, with more than 27 million people starving, according to a report published in April by international aid organizations.
Chi Lael, a spokeswoman for the WFP in Nigeria, said she was worried about the “worrying harvest season ahead”.
Some farmers have lost about 75% of their plantations for the year, said Kabir Ibrahim, national president of the local farmers’ association.
Water damage in Nigeria is also affecting livestock in areas such as Bayelsa state, where Innocent Aluu said she lost nearly 10,000 birds from her poultry farm to floodwaters, most of them waterborne diseases.
“I feel like running away, no one can think straight,” a devastated Aluu said over the phone, estimating his losses at 30 million naira ($68,600).
In neighboring Niger, the water left tens of thousands displaced in the Maradi and Zinder regions, where homes and crops were damaged.
Something similar is happening in Cameroon, where the floods caused significant damage to land and homes in the north.
“This year’s rains are exceptional,” said Kousoumna Libaa, a climate expert in the country. “There has been sustained rainfall since the beginning of the season, since August, September and even now, in October, it is still raining.”
Experts fear that the damage to farmland will further increase food prices at a time when inflation is already at record highs. Nigeria and Ghana have 20.7% and 37%, respectively.
Associated Press writer Joel Kouam in Ngaoundéré, Cameroon, contributed to this report.