I sympathize with the victims and governments of all the states, (particularly Delta State) ravaged by flood. Managing flood is always a complicated affair for both victims and government. My government battled with this natural disaster for the greater part of 2012. Thankfully, we were able to effectively manage the situation through a number of ways, which I would like to share with us.
When the flood disaster struck in 2012, I was on the Nigerian delegation led by President Goodluck Jonathan, to the UN General Assembly in New York. I had to cut short that trip when the news of Delta State going under water was reported to me.
I was worried about what my people, especially the victims, would be passing through and while the summit was underway with the host, former President Barack Obama delivering his welcome address, I had to take permission from my own President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to return to Nigeria with the next available flight. In fact, we had just finished seeing the President of France when I took off and, the next day, I started the initial assessment of impacted areas in a helicopter. This was to enable me get an overview of the disaster. After the aerial overview, I started the ground assessment by vehicle and boat. The situation was pathetic. My first encounter with the victims was at Oko communities in Oshimili South Local Government Area of the state. The three communities of Oko Amakom, Oko Ogbele and Oko Anala were flooded and the villagers gathered as refugees by the roadside.
The displaced persons occupied half of the Benin-Asaba-Onitsha expressway and it was obvious that there would not be movement from either Asaba to Onitsha or vice versa if the situation was not taken care of. From Oshimili North to Oshimili South, Ndokwa East, Ndokwa West, Isoko North, Isoko South, Ughelli North, Ughelli South, Patani, Bomadi and Burutu local government areas, the people were affected in various degrees.
Virtually every top Govt functionary and some outside Government formed a Disaster Management Committee with me personally Chairing the committee. I had to be on the driving seat. The committee strategized, executed, reviewed etc. Everyone was out during the day, and except for those who had to be on duty at the various camps, we met every night for almost two weeks at the Unity Hall to review our daily experiences and actions.
We created make shift camps initially, but we had to create new camps when it became obvious that the makeshift ones were becoming congested. Some of the camps were located at I.C.E Asaba, Illah, Osisa, Utagbe- Ogbe, AGGS Ozoro, Saint Michael’s College Oleh, Ogbe-Ijoh, Oharisi College Ughelli, Swamp Road Warri, Ewu Grammar School Ewu, Okwagbe, Otu-Jeremi Community Hall, Bomadi and the 19th camp was erected at an NDDC facility. We used schools mostly as our camps because nobody expected the flood in the magnitude it occurred. At that time, teachers were on strike in the state and the strike became a blessing in disguise, as we had to use the classrooms.
As a medical doctor, I was aware that diseases such as tuberculosis, which, somebody, perhaps, came with from his community could be transferred to somebody else in the camp if proper sanitation was not in place. We quickly set up emergency clinics in the various camps with doctors and nurses on duty. Personnel from the clinics were mobilized from government hospitals within and around the submerged areas, while the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, offered to send doctors. Some doctors, pharmacists and nurses offered their services voluntarily.
All these were going on while we hurriedly built a temporary structure in the Kwale Stadium to accommodate more flood victims.
PROVISION OF MOBILE HOSPITAL
The state government had purchased a complete mobile hospital with beds, theatre, Xray machine etc, prior to the disaster, but had not been put to use. Thankfully, facility became very useful during this period. It was set up in the Institute of Continuing Education (I.C.E) camp, which we had used as our pilot camp. We also provided ambulance service for the displaced persons.
When schools resumed, students in the affected schools were moved to nearby schools, while the Ministry of Education, Asaba, was directed to come up with a holistic plan to tackle the situation for them not to lose in their academics.
In order for the youths and women not be idle in the camps, skill acquisition schemes were put in place at the ICE center to engage them. Some of the youths formed themselves into six football camps, ranging from Chelsea, Arsenal, etc to keep their minds off wanton activities.
They were numerous challenges because Delta State was in Category A. We cried to the Federal Government and N500 million Naira cash grant was approved for Delta state. Before the disbursement of the fund, I had mobilized to meet National Assembly members from the state in Abuja, some of whom lost their houses to the rampaging flood. When the fund was disbursed, I quickly set up a committee, headed by Justice F. Tabai retired Justice of the Supreme Court, and other eminent Deltans to advise on how to expend the N500 million and measures to take to avert danger in future and other post-camp plans. The money was not enough, but the Federal Government was clear that it was just a start off, as a committee had been set up to raise more funds for the affected states. The team did a fantastic job as every one kobo was utilized judiciously…
To be continued…