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Health implications of flooding in Nigeria and possible solutions

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By Greatman Adiela Owhor

Flooding is currently an important topic of discussion in Nigeria. Flooding in Nigeria is not new as the country has experienced both major and flash flooding over the past 40years. The most recent National flooding was that of 2012; that began in early July 2012, killing over 363 people according Reuters(2012). Reports also show that the flooding occurred in both the Northern and southern parts of the country, particular states of interest include the likes of Adamawa, Taraba, Plateau, Benue, Delta and Bayelsa states.

Health implications of flooding in Nigeria and possible solutions

According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), 30 of Nigeria’s 36 states were affected by floods in 2012. The Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) flood and drought monitor already indicates that the flood water level is in red alert in areas such as Lokoja, with the flood subsequently increasing in other states and people advised to move out of flood-prone areas to avoid flood disasters resulting from increasing flash floods and trans-boundary river flows.

Flooding in Nigeria may be attributed to the extreme weather and climate conditions with ocean surges and floods becoming more regular according to NigerianMeteorological Agency (NiMet).

The failure of natural drainage and rising water levels also contribute to flooding. This shift comes with significant socio-economic effects on agriculture, hydrology, construction, education, and health.

Amongst the many deleterious effects of the flood, the health impact is of notable importance.”Research impacts of the flood” classify the health effects of flooding into; immediate, secondary and long-term effects.

Immediate Health effects include:

  • Drowning: one of the leading causes of death from floods especially due to flash floods; a sudden local flood especially due to heavy rain.
  • Injuries: This usually occurs in an attempt to escape danger, this includes electrical injuries, burns, explosions and animal bites.

.Hypothermia: decrease in the human core body temperature, disruption of health services.

Secondary Health effects include:

  • Water contamination: this is possible as floodwaters may contaminate local waters, carry contaminated feces from animals and damage sewage systems resulting in an increased risk of communicable diseases. Organisms such as Escherichia coli, Shigella spp., Salmonellaspp.and hepatitis A virus can be transmitted easily by direct contact with this water.
  • Contamination by harmful chemicals such as industrial waste.
  • Communicable diseases: as a result of crowded, unsanitary living amongst the shelters set-up for populations displaced by floods, lack of clean water and overall poor sanitation as well vector-borne diseases such as malaria (mosquitoes) and dengue.
  • Respiratory illness: as a result of inhalation exposures.

Long-term Health effects include

  • Mental health problems, psychological distress, suicide, personal losses, and economic hardship, social disruption, etc.

Sources from the World Health Organization states that “floods can potentially increase the transmission of the following communicable diseases:

  • Water-borne diseases, such as typhoid fever, cholera, leptospirosis, and Hepatitis A
  • Vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, dengue and dengue hemorrhagic fever, yellow fever, and West Nile Fever.

Possible solutions to these health effects include:

Immediate: Public awareness can go a long way in reducing casualties as a result of these effects; the public has to be aware of imminent flooding and should know how to manage themselves or possibly move out if one resides in flood-prone areas. Rescue and safe health services should be established in target areas around the nation.

Secondary: early medical care can help to reduce the complications of various injuries sustained as result of the flood; risk management and decontamination procedures must be in place in cases of chemical contamination; appropriate counseling and mental support for flood victims should be provided to aid mental health and as much as possible clean foods and water, safe refuse disposal and immunization programs should be put in place.

Long-term: the effects can be managed by support and counseling, effective health care, rehabilitation, economic recovery, aid and assistance programs.

References

  • “Nigerian floods kill 363 people, displace 2.1mln. Reuters. November 5, 2012. Retrieved November 26, 2012.
  • The Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) flood and drought monitor

.Weiwei Du, BEc, BA; Gerard Joseph FitzGerald, MD, FACEM, Michele Clark, Ph.D., Xiang-Yu Hou, Ph.D. Health impacts of floods. June 2010  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/44807703.

  • WHO; flooding and communicable diseases fact sheet.
  • vanguard

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