June 4, 2017

One killed as storm destroys 1,000 refugee homes in Nigeria

Students of Adamawa State Polytechnic in Yola, packing their belongings following a heavy rainstorm that destroyed their hostels, yesterday morning. PHOTO: NAN.

Torrential rains and wind destroyed 1,000 makeshift homes in northeast Nigeria over the weekend, aggravating conditions for the thousands of people displaced by Boko Haram violence, the United Nations said.

At least 4,300 people have been affected by violent storms that swept the state of Borno, the heart of the eight-year jihadist insurrection, said the International Organization for Migration (IOM) after assessing conditions in 44 camps for displaced people in the state.

“Rains are just beginning and they will last for 3 or 4 months,” Henry Kwenin, an emergency coordinator for the IOM told AFP.

“The number one priority is to reinforce the shelters, to build adequate drainage systems, and safe places in camps where people can gather in case of violent storms,” he added.

The storms came with powerful winds damaging precarious structures in Jere, Kaga, Konduga and Maiduguri, killing one person, said the IOM.

“It began with a sandstorm which lasted for an hour and was followed by a heavy downpour which continued for the next two hours,” said a resident of Pompomari, a district in Maiduguri.

“Our neighbourhood has little trees to break the wind and this makes our houses vulnerable to windstorms,” the resident added.

– ‘Still raining’ –

“It’s still raining as we speak. I can confirm that there are damages but I don’t have any information concerning human casualties,” said Abdulkadir Ibrahim, spokesperson for the national agency that handles emergencies NEMA.

The region has been devastated by eight years of conflict, with the majority of roads inaccessible for security reasons. “Communication is a big challenge,” said Kwenin.

The conflict between the army and Boko Haram jihadists has led to over 20,000 deaths and displacing 2.6 million people since 2009.

Several hundred thousand people have fled to the capital of the region Maiduguri.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 5.2 million people could need life-saving food aid in three northeast states from June to August.

But lack of funding is forcing aid agencies to cut feeding programmes in the northeast Nigeria, the UN said last month, warning of growing pressure on resources as refugees return.

The World Food Programme has said nearly two million people were living on the brink of famine in the remote region.