It’s the rainy season, and as usual, some countries in the world suffer from the common natural disaster of the season – floods. Over 300 natural disasters have occurred in the past decade, affecting millions and costing billions.
Countries like the United States, particularly California and Australia, have recorded some of the worst wildfires in history, which have led to many loss of lives and properties. In 2018, Pakistan experienced a severe heat wave during Ramadan, where people, mostly children and the elderly from poor areas, died.
Nigeria is not an exception, as thousands of lives and properties worth millions of naira have been lost to flooding in the rainy seasons. A natural disaster is a global problem that seems to have no solution. However, it’s important to discuss them for where there is a problem; there is always a solution.
What is a natural disaster?
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a natural disaster as a sudden and terrible event in nature such as a hurricane, tornado, or flood that usually results in serious damage and many deaths. They can cause severe damage to structures and natural environments, posing a threat to human and animal life.
Natural disasters are not man-made, although they contribute to the disasters. However, many agree that the global rise in natural disasters results from climate change.
Natural disasters in Nigeria
Like the rest of the world, Nigeria has experienced its share of natural disasters. These disasters appear to be on the rise since the expansion of the Sahara Desserts in 1920. The effects have been devastating as millions of lives have been lost or displaced. Properties worth billions of dollars have also been lost to these natural disasters. Let’s take a look at the common natural disasters in Nigeria.
Nigeria suffers from perennial flooding, which has been increasingly linked to climate change and lack of management. The 2022 rainy season is still ongoing, and there are reports of severe flooding in Island areas in Lagos State, for instance. There are also reported deaths as cars containing passengers have been swept away by the floods. Nigeria also witnessed one of the worst floods in the country’s history, where 7,705,378 people were affected, and total losses of US$16.9 billion were recorded by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). In 2017, flooding affected an estimated 250,000 Nigerians while 92,000 people were displaced in 2016.
Flooding has affected the economy, health, social life, and environment. Poor management, uncontrolled urbanization, and rapid population growth without the necessary infrastructures to address them have contributed to and exacerbated the destructive force of flooding in Nigeria.
Erosion is the geological process in which earthen materials are worn away and transported by natural forces such as wind or water. Erosion is a natural disaster that has affected some parts of Nigeria, especially the South-East. For instance, the gully erosion in Nanka, Anambra State, is one of the largest in Nigeria at 66 metres deep, 2,900 metres long, and 349 metres wide. According to a study by the American Journal of Geographic Information System, the erosion has guzzled the red earth from underneath people’s homes and farms and made residents fear for their lives and properties.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries experience one-third of the world’s drought. Drought happens due to rising temperatures and extreme weather conditions, which affect not only agriculture but also lives. During the drought of 1972-1973, an estimated 300,000 animals representing 13 per cent of the livestock population of north-eastern Nigeria died. Agricultural yields also dropped to between 12 per cent and 40 per cent of the annual averages. The drought of 1987 saw crop yields ranging between 56 per cent and 75 per cent of the 1986 totals. Drought has brought hunger and poverty to the affected regions, and people must adapt to climate change to avoid more droughts in the future.
Bush fires in Nigeria usually occur during the harmattan seasons. Although the fire disaster is man-made, it spreads through dryness and wind that are associated with harmattan. It’s a common occurrence for people to take advantage of the dry season to burn their farms in preparation for the planting season. However, when these bush burnings are not controlled, they can spread to residences, businesses, and other infrastructures and cause much damage, thanks to the dusty wind of the harmattan.
Landslides usually occur in erosion-prone areas such as South-East Nigeria. According to IrisPublishers, landslides are responsible for the widespread destruction of human, animal, and plant lives, domestic, industrial, and commercial property, transportation and communication systems, degradation of arable lands, and contamination of surface and groundwater supplies, isolation of settlements and migration of communities. The Southeastern States of Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, and Imo states have experienced all manner of landslides and erosion for years. Although landslides aren’t as common as floods, they still pose a serious problem in the country, especially in the South-East.
How to manage natural disasters
- The first and most important way to manage natural disasters is prevention. Although natural disasters cannot always be prevented, permanent measures should be implemented to help minimize risks. These measures are planning and designing a city in a way that minimizes the risk of flooding through building dams and implementing an evacuation plan in advance for areas that will be affected.
- Minimize the loss of human life that would result from a disaster by stopping bush burning around public places that are populated by living beings; making and implementing building policies for construction companies.
- Individuals, communities, businesses, and organizations should be prepared to deal with disasters. Fire drills, active-shooter drills, and evacuation rehearsals are all good examples of training that should be done.
- NEMA and other relevant authorities should respond promptly whenever a disaster occurs. This is to minimize the risk to lives and properties.
- Authorities should also have essential services like food, clean water, utilities, transportation, and healthcare available for victims of natural disasters. This stage is to help victims recover from the effects of the disasters.
About 250 million people live in Nigeria, making it the most populous country in Africa. The population is expected to rise to about 450 million by mid-century. Most of the Nigerian population live in urban areas, which are mostly unplanned and, as a result, will continue to fall to disasters like flooding. The subject of climate change is not given attention as it should. NEMA and other relevant bodies have a long way to go to educate the people about the causes of natural disasters and how to prevent or manage them.