As residents are forced out of their homes in Taraba State by the devastating effect of this year’s flood, health experts have predicted an upsurge in the outbreak of waterborne diseases in the state, TUNDE OGUNTOLA and JOHN MKOM write.
The impacts of flooding have increasingly assumed from significant to threatening proportions, resulting in loss of lives and properties in Taraba State.
Though officially detailed statistics are not available regarding the losses sustained by the flood victims in Taraba State, LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that some of the worst-hit areas are Mayo Gwoi, Abuja Phase 2, Barade, Nukkai, and part of Abuja Phase 1.
Besides washing away many homes and rendering many homeless, the furious flood has led to untold and unspeakable hardship to the residents, it also washed away farm crops and livestock worth over a billion naira as a result of the heavy downpour.
A check within Jalingo the state capital also revealed that most of the drainages in the city centre were blocked following the flood posing greater danger if the heavy downpours persist, amidst cholera outbreaks recorded in some parts of the country.
Apart from houses that were collapsed by flooding, school buildings and other scaffolds were collapsed by this flash flood. Market places and farmlands were also submerged, sending jitters through the spines of those residing along the river bank due to the persistent increase of the water level.
Sadly, residents of communities at the river banks in Taraba State are still counting their losses as they pass through a series of pains and agony.
Most of the residents affected by the flood’s devastation have varied stories to tell by the degree of the effects. In Barade most of the residents have deserted for safety to other areas while others who hardened their hearts stayed behind to safeguard their properties even amidst the prevailing security situation in the state.
Helpless residents in the state capital were sighted at the popular River Mayo-Gwei Bridge trying to catch a glimpse of how the furious flood was carting away victim’s properties, farm produce, and other valuables.
This is even as the major road leading from Jalingo such as “Hamaruwa Way” became unmotorable by the flood, forcing workers and business owners to be absent from their daily ventures.
A resident Amina Abdullahi who spoke with LEADERSHIP Weekend blamed the disaster on the lack of maintenance and unavailability of drainage systems in many parts of the state capital.
Abdullahi lamented that amidst consistent flooding at the river bank the state governments refused to attend to it or ensure proper monitoring of building plans to ensure that landowners adhere to the plans while building.
‘’When visited, it was discovered that many of the victims were yet to relocate to their damaged homes for fear of more rains, said a village head of Abuja Phase 2 Thomas Umar.
Another resident, Philip Garba, who spoke on behalf of the head of Abuja Phase 2, Thomas Umar, said over 100 houses were destroyed in the community including other properties worth millions of naira.
Also, a widower Mr Bulus Shamaki, who resides at Nukkai told LEADERSHIP Weekend that at the moment he had sent his seven children to take refuge with his sister in Mutum-Biu.
He said this was pending when he is capable of amending his flooded residence.
On the health implications of the flood, head of medical services Remee Medicare, Dr. Isah Ayuba, said flooding by its nature has the potential to contaminate water which poses serious medical challenges for affected communities.
“One of the diseases that normally breaks out when there is flooding in a community is cholera. Other diseases include diarrhea, malaria; because the stagnant water as a result of flooding serves as a breeding ground for mosquitoes,” Isa said.
He said because of the cold weather; people living in a flooded area are likely to have respiratory tract infections, “in addition to skin infection that is highly likely because of the dirty nature of the environment.”
Isa said waterborne diseases associated with flooding pose danger to children with weak immune systems, “especially the under-five are mostly affected, but adults are not spared from it, though.”
He continued: “The health challenges associated with the aftermath of flooding are not quite different from those encountered when the flood is on.
“The freshwater that people used before the incident now gets contaminated with dirty, human and animal wastes which rendered water sourced from well as an open reservoir which is unhealthy for human consumption.”
The medical practitioner added that fresh vegetables people consume can also get contaminated with ‘’all sorts of dirt and there might be seemingly no source of fresh and drinkable water available to be used to wash such vegetables before consumption.”
Meanwhile, amidst efforts to ameliorate the sufferings of the victims, the leadership of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has told the Taraba State Government that failure to address the prevailing insecurity in the state, may hamper its hope of getting intervention from the agency.
LEADERSHIP Weekend crew who were at Jolly Nyame Stadium in Jalingo observed that it was a gory sight as hoodlums barred NEMA officials from reaching out with the items meant for persons seriously affected by the disaster depriving them access to the relief materials.
The hoodlums also brought down the entrance gate of the stadium, where the items were being distributed and disrupted the distribution.
This occurred when the commissioner for humanitarian affairs Taraba State Panimga Binga convened a half truckload of relief materials for the victims of the Jalingo flood disaster on Wednesday.
Sighting when the materials were brought, a group of youths invaded the area and carted away with both food and non-food items forcefully.
The leadership of the humanitarian affairs expressed sadness at the way and manner their visit to assess the levels of damages done by the recent flood disaster was disrupted by hoodlums.
However, apart from depriving the victims’ access to the relief materials, several vehicles which were earlier brought in to assist victims with their goods were vandalised by the hoodlums.
Worried by the development, a top official while speaking on the condition of anonymity viewed the situation to be worse than that of the #EndSARS.
The official said that from the #EndSARS period to this very moment, they have done a series of distributions. Lamenting further on the occurrence, the official said that “each time we come here for distributions of relief materials; we are always being harassed by hoodlums.”
Lamenting that the situation is becoming recurring, he passionately pleaded with the state government to wade in “because our lives are not safe” stating that “if this continues, it would scare us from coming for distributions.”
Admitting that “what we saw on the ground was enormous and beyond the 200 households targeted” NEMA, according to him, is willing and ready to come in with more relief materials, if only the government will guarantee their security.
Taraba State governor Darius Ishaku who was in Abuja on official assignment during the sad occurrence cut short his trip and returned to Jalingo following the devastating nature of the flood on the people of the state.
Ishaku, who drove straight from Danbaba Suntai Airport to the flood-affected areas, sympathised with the victims and promised to initiate means of assisting those who were rendered homeless.
The governor called on the Ministry of Land and Survey to be proactive in giving direction to the people who were constructing houses at the riverbank in order to avoid future occurrences of the incident.
“I am deeply saddened by this disaster, I feel your pain and I want to sympathise with you on this heavy downpour and flood that rendered many people homeless.
“Those that are too close to the river bank we may advise you to leave these places.
The governor further revealed that the flood is across five local government areas of the state, namely, Ibi, Karim, Yoro, Jalingo and Lau.