India: Arrest of more than 200 members of an Islamic movement

AHOADA: It was dark. Everything was black. And the water level rose even more. This time, Fortune Lawrence has resigned herself to fleeing with her 8 children on a makeshift boat, far from her home ravaged by the waves.

It’s been two weeks since the 50-year-old and her “pikin” (“children” in Nigerian pidgin) fled the deadliest floods of the decade in Africa’s most populous country.

The family now lives in dire conditions in a crowded school near Ahoada, in Rivers State, southeastern Nigeria.

According to the registers, they are more than a thousand to have found refuge in the classrooms of this improvised camp for displaced people.

“I was afraid of dying,” breathes Ms. Lawrence, surrounded by about twenty children, in the middle of a classroom.

“Here, we have nothing. Not enough food, no nappies or mosquito nets. We need help,” she says, her features drawn.

According to authorities, the floods have killed more than 600 people and displaced 1.3 million since June across the country. From the memory of Nigerians, confirmed by meteorological agencies, the rise in water levels this year is particularly dazzling. Much more than in 2012 and 2020.

Today, the Southeast is the most affected region.

In Rivers State, here and there, many crowded displacement camps are hosting those who were able to flee.

The others remained in the submerged villages and sleep where they can, in the trees for example, alert Obed Onyekachi, evoking several members of his family.

“It was impossible for them to come here. And how many others, swallowed by the waters, are missing?” Asks the 32-year-old man, rage in his voice.

“The crops have been destroyed. We have lost hope. The famine is coming.”

“contaminated water”

Without a boat, moving from one state to another is impossible. The supply of food is laborious.

On the main highway to the west, the current overturned a tanker. Several people died at this precise location, according to local residents.

Some still try to cross on foot, the water up to their waists.

“I’ve been stuck on the road for seven days. We don’t know how long it will last. Everything is devastated,” laments Alamin Mohamed, 25, who hopes to be able to switch to a motorbike soon.

Crowded, wooden and, for the lucky ones, motorized boats commute. No one wears a life jacket.

On the right bank, the roof of a church protrudes from the dark waters, grazed by high-voltage electric cables.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) representative in Nigeria, Fred Kafeero, warned that the floods increased the risk of diseases such as cholera.

In the primary school of Ihuike, most sleep on the floor, glued to each other. Each class houses about 50 people.

A team of volunteer students cleans the premises and divides the meager food sent by the local authorities.

One of them, “Ekpeye students” t-shirt on his shoulders, is worried about the risk of epidemics and infections.

“We need a clean environment. We pay attention to everything but we are exhausted,” he said, on condition of anonymity.

“Even the well water is contaminated.”

Dangerous promiscuity

Ten days ago, Rivers State Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike approved the sum of 1 billion naira (2.3 million euros) to help flood victims, especially in Ahoada.

But here, we lack everything. Women have no hygienic protection. “Not even a handkerchief for that,” says one of them from the crowded schoolyard.

At the entrance, lines of children face three women in blue surgical gloves. A young boy opens his eyes wide, without understanding, when a spatula scrapes his upper and then lower gums.

All minors pass an oral test for AIDS. Bukky Chika Emeyi, 27, notes each result. If positive, the child will need to take a blood test at the hospital to confirm the first.

“Their living conditions are deplorable. The risk of transmission is high,” said the young volunteer from the local NGO IHVN.

“Women are giving birth right now with untrained midwives using unsterilized tools.”

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India: Arrest of more than 200 members of an Islamic movement