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Nigerians displaced by devastating flood and cholera risks

Nigeria’s southern Bayelsa state is officially nicknamed the ‘glory of all lands.’ But much of it is now a river that has driven entire communities away from their homes.

Desperate to survive, many locals fleeing raging floods which have wrecked their homes and livelihoods are also forced to depend on floodwater for sustenance.

For displaced inhabitants of northern Bayelsa’s Odi town, who have found new homes in roadside shacks and tent shelters with no access to running water,stagnant floodwaters are the only available alternatives for drinking, cooking and bathing.

Local trader Chigozie Uzo shares her fears of catching a waterborne disease.

“I’ve heard of cholera,” she told reported, “but I don’t have a choice than to use this water.”

Meters away from Uzo, a young girl aged no more than five years old squats to urinate in the same floodwater she had rinsed her pot and plates in.

Humanitarian agencies fear the floods will contribute to a health disaster and Nigeria has already seen a rise in cholera infections as floods ravage many parts of the country.

According to UNICEF, “more than 2.5 million people in Nigeria are in need of humanitarian assistance – 60 per cent of which are children – and are at increased risk of waterborne diseases, drowning and malnutrition due to the most severe flooding in the past decade.”

A rise in cholera infections could be devastating for the country as the World Health Organization warns of a”strained global supply of cholera vaccines”

Bayelsa and 30 other Nigerian states have reported thousands of suspected cholera cases, the country’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) said in a recent reports.

Bayelsa is among 33 of 36 Nigerian states grappling with the devastation of the country’s worst flooding in a decade. More than 600 lives have been lost in floods across the West African country, its government says, and almost 1.5 million people have been displaced, according to the country’s humanitarian ministry.

Aniso Handy, 56, has remained in his house in Odi, which has been overrun by water.

“I still live here,” he told CNN as he paddled his canoe into his flooded living room before making his way to a dry room upstairs.

“My family doesn’t stay here because of the flood and for their safety … but I know how to swim,” he said.

For some in the community, such as 27-year-old Igbomiye Zibokere, this is not the first time they have experienced the devastating effects of flooding.

During the last major flooding in 2012, her sick mother drowned in her room when water engulfed their home, she told CNN.

“My mum was ill when the floods came in 2012. The water level was high and my sister and I couldn’t carry her. All we could do was cry as she drowned in her room,” Zibokere said.

Zibokere, who is a petty trader, said she returned from the bush near her home in early October to find it taken over by water. The water level rose to her neck and they were forced to leave the house.

She and her young children are now homeless and living rough in a makeshift tent by the roadside.

“We are in a canopy. If it rains, the canopy would be blown away by the wind and we’ll be beaten by the rain. I’m suffering now. No food to eat or water to drink,” the mother-of-five said.

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