By Philip Yatai, Kaduna.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Friday warned that more than 1.5 million children were at increased risk of waterborne diseases, drowning and malnutrition, due to devastating floods across the country.
UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Ms Cristian Munduate, in a statement in Kaduna said that more than 2.5 million people in Nigeria needed humanitarian assistance because of the floods.
Munduate described the 2022 flood as the “most severe flooding” in the past decade.
She said that the floods, which had affected 34 out of the 36 states in the country, had displaced 1.3 million people.
She added that over 600 people hade lost their lives, while over 200,000 houses had been partially or completely damaged.
“Cases of diarrhoea and water-borne diseases, respiratory infections and skin diseases have already been on the rise.
“In the north-eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe alone, a total of 7,485 cases of cholera and 319 associated deaths were reported as of 12th October.
“As rains are expected to continue for several weeks, humanitarian needs are also expected to rise.
“Children and adolescents in flood-affected areas are in an extremely vulnerable situation. They are particularly at risk of water-borne diseases and emotional and psychological distress,” she said.
Munduate said that UNICEF was working closely with the government and other partners to provide life-saving assistance to those who were most in need.
She noted that the floods were adding another layer of complexity to an already precarious humanitarian situation in the country.
According to her, immediate priority needs for children include health, water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as shelter and food.
“Additional funding and resources are required to respond to growing needs and to sustain ongoing humanitarian interventions, with a focus on the most vulnerable, including children with disabilities.
“Nigeria is considered at ‘extremely high risk’ of the impacts of climate change, ranking second out of 163 countries, according to UNICEF’s Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI).”
Besides, the UNICEF representative said that children in “extremely high risk” countries faced a deadly combination of exposure to multiple climate and environmental shocks combined with high levels of underlying child vulnerability.
According to her, this is due to inadequate essential services, such as water and sanitation, healthcare and education.
Munduate said that UNICEF had supported the government response in three affected States – Jigawa, Niger and Kaduna.
She identified some of the support as the provision of cash assistance, distribution of cholera kits, government-led mobile health teams, provision of temporary learning centres and learning kits and cholera kits.
“With additional support, UNICEF can scale up its response in other states to provide life-saving medical equipment and essential medicines, chlorination of water and sanitation supplies.
“UNICEF will equally support the prevention of and response to sexual and gender-based violence,” she added.