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Double Trouble for Female Victims of Nigeria's Flood Disaster

It is with mixed feelings that I am putting down my thoughts on the recent flood disasters in my country. There is a measure of guilt that I delayed my outlook on this issue; and another of innocence because there were no deliberate attempts to make light of it. Essentially, ecological issues are very close to my heart and I have an inherent interest to discover, share and track facts and figures about related happenings; in particular, those that touch on the lives of women and children. It is very much a sense of responsibility for me.

Currently, there are numerous natural and man-made environmental phenomena and challenges that endanger our ecosystem: ecological diseases, earthquakes, environmental degradation, hurricanes, tsunamis, landslides, volcanic eruptions, global warming, population explosion and very importantly and amongst others, floods. These environmental issues are complex, global and interrelated. Of course, there are heightened concerns about how we can reverse, control or stop these trends especially because of their very devastating impacts on human lives.

Flooding is one occurrence that has ravaged different parts of Nigeria in recent months. More than 26 states in Nigeria were affected and life in impacted communities has been one of pain, lament and misery; as many homes, farmlands, roads and such other valuable properties were destroyed, submerged and or affected in other negative ways. While the flood saga allegedly assumed a disastrous dimension because of the release of water from Lagdo dam in neighboring Cameroon, the torrential rainfall recorded in Nigeria this year also propped it up. Unfortunately Nigeria was ill prepared as 25% of Nigerians are reported to have been displaced!

The Niger Delta region appears worst hit because it lies within the coastal zone of Nigeria, where the rainy season is year-round, with more than 4,000 mm (160 in) of rain recorded each year. As the waters advanced and wrecked havoc, people continuously moved towards safer areas, particularly makeshift refugee camps provided on higher grounds, leaving many communities deserted even as I write. Many of the affected communities were completely cut off as the floods destroyed most of the available roads and did not spare the lives and or livelihoods of the inhabitants. The aftermath of the floods still lingers and many affected persons are still counting their distressing losses.

Though the waters have begun receding, and the three levels of Government as well as many public spirited individuals and organizations have been making concerted efforts to alleviate the plights of victims, their situation still leaves much to be desired and calls for more drastic and up-to-the-minute efforts. Most of the victims have lost all they have and are now living out in the cold without food and water; nor a place to lay their heads. They are also faced with the possibility of epidemic outbreak because the camps are congested; with very appalling sanitary conditions. The situation is quite pathetic and sadly, the growing numbers of this group of internally displaced persons are women and children.

It is extremely regrettable that in the midst of the entire crisis, women’s vulnerability still reared its ugly head. Cases of rape and other forms of sexual abuses have been recorded across four designated campsites in Benue State. The act is being perpetrated by young boys and men in the camp, who have become idle and randy, having been sacked from their farmlands and artisanal works. Such incidences have reinforced the already grievous woes of women and young girls; and they need to be saved from any more tragedy: this time around, the misfortune of being subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse, assault or oppression.

In addition to the relief responses being offered, it has become a matter of urgency to make provision for the protection of women against molestation and exploitation. Towards addressing scores of problems which the females are contending with, there is a burning need to ensure that their roles are strengthened in the relief and security efforts. They are the ones who are being assaulted and most affected by privacy issues that are lacking in the camps. Answers to women’s problems lies with women! We have answers to problems that affect our lives and what we need is to be given the opportunity and wherewithal.

A viable way of expediting action in that direction for the victims of flood is to draw from women’s untapped potential in dealing with difficulties. Women have an invaluable role to play in disaster management and should be given unrestricted participation in such efforts. As declared by Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), “Women must be at the heart of relief efforts and the re-building of shattered communities….”

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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Cali gal Michelle's picture

Thank you

Olanike-
Thank you for this journal entry and voicing the plight of women in this situation. It is my hope that the women DO rise up and start campaigns and start to create change in this situation. What would be the first step for these women in this situation? Are they able to take that first step without international help or intervention? I think women around the world must come together to create a unified and unbreakable strength for change.

Let us Hope together-
Michelle
aka: Cali gal

Listener
Sister-Mentor
@CaliGalMichelle
facebook.com/caligalmichelle

Greengirl's picture

Dear Michelle

For now, it looks like what is uppermost on the minds of most of the women flood victims is being saved from hunger and getting resettled. This may be due to the fact that the rape cases were recorded only in the refugee camps across one of the affected States. Good news though, is that it sent warning signals to the women, girls, officials and authorities within the refugee camps in the other affected States that didn't record such incidents.

Locally, however, many individuals and bodies have taken on the cause on behalf of the victims and continued to lend their voices to the call for change, which I hope will guide against and or forestall future occurrence. Now everyone is more aware that women and girls need extra protection during disaster situations.

As women, we must continue to speak out and look out for ourselves and our world by supporting actions that will bring about the positive changes that we so much desire.

Thank you so much for your insights and support.

Much love,

Olanike

mrbeckbeck's picture

Women's voices, solutions

I whole-heartily agree that there are some incredible solutions to be found in "women’s untapped potential". In addressing a response to an emergency situation the authorities in governments and NGOs should take special concern to plan for women's needs and to include women's voices in their responses.

The double-impact of flooding and gender-based violence is likely to have a long lasting impact on these communities who are already hit hard with poverty, environmental damage and more. I look forward to the day when Nigeria's government adequately cares for the women, children and men in the country.

Thank you for sharing this important news with our community, as always, your writing is so powerful and eye-opening.
Best wishes,

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Volunteer

Greengirl's picture

Great to hear from you Scott

First, I must do something I had planned to do long before now, but have some how failed to do. Congratulations on your most recent role as the World Pulse Online Community Manager. I wish you outstanding success and greater strides ahead!

I am stimulated and encouraged by your comments which I believe accentuated the import roles that women can play in our world.

How could anyone have ever imagined that man was capable of such terrible acts under such conditions? Better left unimagined even though it is an eye opener regarding the many unvoiced and undocumented challenges that women are confronted with. I imagine that you know too well that women and children in my country continue to experience heightened deprivations in the midst of plenty. It remains of concern to me that the government of my country is still unable to turn the fortunes of women and children around till date. Though, things are looking more hopeful now that we have a seemingly more gender sensitive government in place.

We will just have to keep hope alive and and look forward to days when women's needs and voices will be given a place of pride in the scheme of things.

Thankfully,

Olanike

Wendyiscalm's picture

Olanike: I offer you a challenge

Hi BBG,

Olanike,

I keep reading your pieces about the horrific happenings, both man and nature made, that you and other readers tell about so professionally yet compassionately. As you know Mother Teresa questioned whether or not there was a God after all the "more- than -your- average-paying- off- my- karma- from- a- previous- incarnation things she witnessed. So, I ask you would you at some point do a paper/article on how you get through all of what you see still believing in a God . I know you are intelligent so the paper would be well thought out and it would be of great interest to me and I assume to many others who may want to write their own article. I ask you because I know you better. I guess it would take some time because you are very busy and it would take a lot of thinking. Just an idea.

Love and ubuntu (I am who I am because of who we are together),

Mama Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Cali gal Michelle's picture

I like it!

Wendy-
I like your idea of writing about how to come through the other side of horror, still believing in God. A few years ago I went through my own horror and found myself asking that same question. I would be interested in hearing how others' thoughts line up with conclusions I found.

Thanks for your inspiration.

Let us Hope together-
Michelle
aka: Cali gal

Listener
Sister-Mentor
@CaliGalMichelle
facebook.com/caligalmichelle

Greengirl's picture

Would you consider?

Dear Michelle,

Much as I know others will be interested in hearing your own story, I am interested and all ears too! Please consider telling your story too, because I know it would make a difference in ways you may never have imagined.

Looking forward to the post.

Olanike

Cali gal Michelle's picture

Dearest Olanike- Hesitation

Dearest Olanike-

Hesitation halts me from putting words down regarding the unexpected and tragic experience/s I had for the time being. Maybe someday. I know we should not compare, but really, living in the U.S., the struggles I face seem less important that others, where change really needs to happen for the health and literal life of women and children.

I would volunteer to help with forming a group or an action opportunity, where WP members could write a short essay on how they came through, or are going through, horrible struggle still holding on to a Higher Power, to God, etc. How do we retain Hope? That would be a great title!

Be well.

Let us Hope together-
Michelle
aka: Cali gal

Listener
Sister-Mentor
@CaliGalMichelle
facebook.com/caligalmichelle

Greengirl's picture

Nice to hear from you!

I certainly understand the way you feel and I know too well that you care about the seemingly unending challenges that people, especially in parts of the developing world go through. I am also guilty of not having made out time to put down my thoughts on the issue mama Wendy raised. Challenges are all over the place, it's just that it appears or gets overwhelming sometimes. Your idea of the short essay would no doubt open up a window of opportunity for WP members to once again share with and also learn from one another. I like the idea!

Warmly and much love,

Olanike

Cali gal Michelle's picture

Perhaps we could put our

Perhaps we could put our heads together and see how to start this idea going. I will think about and explore the best options for format/platform to start this. I'm pretty sure we could put out an invitation for submissions with specific guidelines, etc. I will private message you when I can so we can explore this idea together!

Love,
Michelle

Let us Hope together-
Michelle
aka: Cali gal

Listener
Sister-Mentor
@CaliGalMichelle
facebook.com/caligalmichelle

Greengirl's picture

Great!

I'll be waiting for your message but in the mean time I'll do some brainstorming too. Thank you for the opportunity to work with you on this.

Hugs,

Olanike

Greengirl's picture

Interestingly welcomed!

Thank you so much mama Wendy for always being there to give me that much needed push and encouragement. I find the challenge very interesting and would begin putting my thoughts together. I can never get too busy not to have time voice something that is close to my heart, which I know will at the same time benefit someone out there in whatever little way.

You sure have a way of making things happen. Keep it coming! Haha!

Ubuntu,

Olanike (BBG)

Heidi's picture

Thank you

You are one amazing woman to feel such a responsibility! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and words. Absolutely women should and will embrace an important role in rebuilding as well as disaster management. I would like to add my encouragement to the comments above that you spread your words and experience even further. Perhaps you could help others experiencing these disasters find their voice as well. Best wishes to you and please continue to keep us posted on the situation there.
Much love,
Heidi

Greengirl's picture

Greatful to you Heidi

I am always inspired, motivated and delighted when I meet women who share my passion for a safe and just planet for ALL. Your thoughts shared on the post is revealing! You are even more amazing for being such an encourager. Your suggestion about helping others experiencing disaster find their voice is at the heart of my interests, passion and work. It may interest you to know that to an appreciable extent, I have been able reach and support many women and groups through my work.

The work is evolving by the day, though may be not as fast as anticipated. I am hopeful that soonest, all the teething problems that go with it would soon be a thing of the past. You may want to look up www.wisenigeria.org to get a glimpse into the nature of my work, though the website is still new and only thematic at the moment. Hopefully, by the start of the coming year, the website would be have become fully functional; as work is already ongoing towards sharing the programs and activities of the organization on the site.

I will continue to do my best to keep abreast of the situation and also share same.

Hugs and much love too!

Olanike Olugboji
Founder/Program Coordinator
Women Initiative for Sustainable Environment (WISE)

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