Flood victims suffer from hunger, homelessness in Imo communities


Anambra-floodsBy Gibson Achonu

Three years after flood destroyed farmlands and residential homes in Oguta, Oguta Local Government Area, Imo State, the natural accident has again befallen the community, destroying property, including cash crops and houses in the area. After the September 21, 2012 incident, the residents have since been facing untold hardship. And yet again, they have been subjected to another period of hardship.

First, they were rendered homeless and all personal effects lost. Hunger and starvation took over the whole area and clothing became a tertiary matter. For the victims, life was very unbearable as some died in the process.

Kindhearted commendations were rendered to donor agencies, who interceded by sending in batches of relief materials to the affected people to sustain them for the period of the flood. Largess in form of money, food items, clothes and sleeping materials have also come from well-meaning individuals and corporate organisations.

Last year, there had been forecast by meteorologists that there would be another flood this year. While many discarded the prediction, others had believed but prayed against the incident from reoccurring.

However, the reality is that in Oguta now, precisely in Oguta II, flood has caused more mayhem then it caused in the recent past.

Our correspondent, who moved round the area, observed as tarred roads in the area have been covered by water. Farmlands and houses were also flood-logged. The flood has also taken over the blue lake in the community, flowing across its boundary, and getting shops and kiosks sited near the banks submerged.

A businessman, Mr. Chike Okwuosa, who was one of those that the flood submerged his shop, told our correspondent that he lost some money which was kept in his shop.

He said, “I came to the shop in the morning for my business as usual, only to see my shop overtaken by the flood. To cry was not a panacea to the problem and to see my shop right inside the water was very awful. Most people around the place who patronise me, including boat drivers, came to sympathise with me.”

His consolation, he said, was that he had another shop more ample-sized and stocked up than the one submerged in the flood.

Also, Mrs. Janet Iworisha, who owns a makeshift kiosk near the lake where she sells petty items, stated that it was from the income she used to make from her trade that she attended to her needs. She however said she was grateful to God because she only lost her shop and not her wares. She said, “Considering the economic crunch in Imo State presently, where do I raise money to reconstruct another kiosk coupled with my four children’s problems since my husband is no more?” She pleaded with the government for help.

For a boat driver in the community, Mr. Okey Udom, he said that the flood had affected his business. He stated that there had been low patronage due to the flood.

He said, “Those who used to regularly go to the market do not come out again. We come out in the morning to the duty post and we rarely fly the boats. This is because there are no person to fly across. Any sensible boat driver cannot just be flying his boat on the lake for no business interest. If a driver goes one turn (to and fro), he will thank God.”

Also, a commercial motorcyclist in the area, Mr. Theodore Anyanka, said, “It was when speedboats berth that we carry passengers. Since it takes one hour for a boat to discharge its passengers, we sparingly get passengers to carry to the upland.”

At the Avu quarters and Ahia Afo, our correspondent observed as there was no human being seen in the areas as the houses there have also become flood-logged.

At the Otunwoneke area in the same Oguta II, the level of damage and agony the flood has caused could better be imagined than expressed.

Cash crops and houses were seen inside the flood, rendering the occupants homeless.

Mr. Simeon Chukwu, one of the residents who spoke to our correspondent, was seen peeling cassava at the roadside (adjacent to his house). He said, “This flood you are seeing is one month old now. Just take a look at my house. I cannot step my feet inside there. Everything I have in life is inside that place. I have taken my wife and children to my in-laws’ place in Owerri. I decided to stay behind so as to monitor events.

“I sleep near here at the mercy of God because the whole bush is waterlogged. Thanks to God you met me while peeling the cassava to produce loi loi so that I can have something to eat. Let the government come to our rescue by sending relief items to us here.”

Another resident, Mrs. Nkeiruka Nwokeocha, who was seen with one piece of wrapper around her chest, noted that hunger had ravaged the residents. “The worst is that there is no money. When will this stop? How can one be alive to see his/her death? For one month now, mosquitoes have been biting us and we are hungry. When would this trauma end?” she cried out.

Also, a resident, Mr. Samuel Isu, lamented that the relief materials that should be given to the victims were being diverted to other persons who were not even affected.

“This is what we experienced in 2012. The government officials did not get to this area. They started in the metropolis and shared the relief items the way they wanted. It did not get to us,” he said.

Another resident, Mr. Nkem John, said that he had gone to his farm by canoe to harvest whatever he could lay his hands on to feed and called on the state governor, Rochas Okorocha, to come to their rescue.

The Executive Secretary of the state Emergency Management Agency, Chief (Mrs.) Uche Ezeonyeasi, described the situation as unfortunate and pathetic. She said that the 2015 flood affected mostly farmers and their farm settlements. Ezeonyeasi also confirmed that in 2012, the flood had submerged buildings built by people in the entire local government area.

Meanwhile, she said that the state government had on October 23, 2015, through SEMA, dispatched four full truckloads of relief items to the victims (two to Ohaji/Egbema and two to Oguta LGA), which she said were judiciously distributed to the real victims.

Ezeonyeasi said, “Over 5,000 victims smiled home with relief materials on that day. The relief materials were not to solve all their problems, but just a palliative measure. It was to take care of them till the water recedes.”

According to her, some of the communities in Ohaji/Egbema LGA where the relief items were distributed include, Abacheke, Abaezi, Opaoma, Obiakpu, Obeakpu Obokofia and Mmahu.

Items distributed included, bags of rice, beans, maize, garri, cartons of indomie noodles, beverages, detergents, salt, oil (groundnut and palm), water, mattresses and blankets, among others.

The SEMA boss also said plans were underway by the state government to provide more relief items to the affected people before the flood subsides.

“We are grateful to Governor Rochas Okorocha for his gesture and spontaneous reaction towards the plight of the affected people. This is in line with the ‘rescue mission’ mantra of his government,” she said.(The Punch)

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