Nigeria flooding worsened by climate change kills more than 600 and displaces 1.3 million

At least 603 people have been killed by flooding in Nigeria, and all but three of the 36 states in the West African nation have been impacted, the Nigerian humanitarian affairs ministry said on Sunday.

The national government also announced that more than 1.3 million people have been displaced due to the rising waters and a minimum of 840,000 acres of land also have been affected. The flooding has also triggered fears of food scarcity in the heavily agricultural nation. Nigeria’s population of 218 million is the largest in Africa.

“We are very sad over these flood incidences in the country. It is a national disaster,” said Goodluck Jonathan, former president of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan, on Thursday at an improvised displacement camp in an elementary school.

Flooding in Lokoja, Nigeria
Flooding in Lokoja, Nigeria, Oct. 13, 2022. (Ayodeji Oluwagbemiga/Reuters)

The floods have been caused by unusually heavy rainfall. “Nigeria, which gets heavy tropical rains from May to September, usually suffers from seasonal flash floods but almost never on this scale,” Reuters reported last week.

The problem was exacerbated by a release of water from the Lagdo Dam in neighboring Cameroon, which was necessitated by the rain waters causing the dam to overflow.

More extreme rainfall patterns are a consequence of climate change, as warmer temperatures cause more evaporation, making both droughts and floods more common. Countries around the world have experienced both this year. The droughts that parched North America, Europe and China this summer were made 20 times more likely because of climate change, according to a recent study by World Weather Attribution, an international collaboration among scientists.

The city of Kogi after several days of rain
The city of Kogi after several days of rain. (Fatai Campbell/AP)

Meanwhile, devastating floods in Pakistan have recently submerged one-third of the country, killed more than 1,300 and displaced 32 million people from their homes. In one week in late July and early August, Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri all experienced rainfall so heavy that it’s only supposed to occur once every 1,000 years.

On Saturday, Australia experienced widespread flash flooding on its east coast as a result of heavy rains. Storm waters inundated homes and cars in three states and some areas were evacuated.

“It was frightening,” 61-year-old Antoinette Besalino told the news agency Agence France-Presse. “I’ve been here for the other floods but I’ve never seen anything like that.”

A woman is rescued from floodwater in Maribyrnong, Australia
A woman is rescued from floodwater in Maribyrnong, Australia, Oct. 14. (Erik Anderson/AAP Image via AP)

Twenty people have died from floods in the country this year (including flooding this spring in southeast Australia) and the flooding has also caused $3.3 billion in damage.

The devastation of natural disasters in developing countries such as Pakistan and Nigeria creates additional threats of humanitarian crises, however, because poorer countries are at greater risk of cascading effects such as famine. Nigeria is already struggling with decreased food production due to armed conflict in the country’s northwest and central regions. In East Africa, drought is threatening millions with food insecurity as well.

Satellite image of Idah, Nigeria
A satellite image of Idah, Nigeria, from June 12, left, and of the same location on Oct. 11. (NASA Earth Observatory/Cover Images via ZUMA Press)

Among those displaced by the floods are thousands of Nigerians who were already in camps — which the flooding destroyed — for internally displaced people, due to the regional conflict. At least 15,000 Nigerians “are in immediate need of shelter and food due to floods which destroyed their camps,” according to the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration (IOM). “Heavy rainfall and strong winds have caused serious damage to shelters and infrastructure in camps and other sites for IDPs since the onset of Nigeria’s rainy season in June,” an information officer for the U.N.’s IOM said.

The organization said that funding remains short and the threats of worse impacts and prolonged famine loom.

“It’s saddening,” Chiamaka Ibeanu, a nurse in Nigeria’s Anambra state, told the Washington Post on Sunday. “All of a sudden, people are left with no homes and turned to beggars in weeks. No matter how rich they were, the displacement has reduced them so much.”

Wading through floodwater in Makurdi
Wading through floodwater in Makurdi, Oct. 1. (Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters)

Last week, 76 people died in Anambra when a boat they were using to escape roof-high floodwaters capsized.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres recently called for increased aid from developed countries, which have contributed more than 80% of the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change, to help developing countries adapt to climate change and to reimburse them for some of the losses caused by it.

“The people of Pakistan are the victims of a grim calculus of climate injustice,” Guterres said at the U.N. General Assembly earlier this month. He added that richer nations should increase the generosity of their climate change aid at the next U.N. climate change conference, also known as COP27, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, next month.

A displaced persons camp in Sehwan, Pakistan
A displaced persons camp in Sehwan, Pakistan, Sept. 30. (Akhtar Soomro/Reuters)

The U.N. issued a report last week stating that much of the world lacks sufficient emergency warning systems for extreme weather. Guterres called on nations to work together to implement a five-year action plan to deploy early warning systems worldwide, which he will unveil at COP27.

“Entire populations are being blindsided by cascading climate disasters, without any means of prior alert,” Guterres said. “People need adequate warning to prepare for extreme weather events.”