From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
When flood ravaged Mbiama, Akinima and Akinso communities in Ahoada West Local Government Area of Rivers state, some weeks ago, the entire residents of the affected communities were relocated to safe areas. Though they left the danger zone unscathed, the hapless flood victims were to face greater hazards in the Internally Displaced Camps (IDC’s) which had since become their new homes.
“We have constantly been bitten by mosquitoes since we arrived at this camp, and many people have been complaining of having high fever,” complained a 12-year-old girl who simply gave her name as Progress.
That is not all. There are very few medical personnel and drugs to cater for the health needs of the refugees. Beyond that, there has been scarcity of drinkable water in the camp since they arrived there.
The large population of refugees in the camp was provided with only one toilet, a development which forced many residents to defecate indiscriminately, thereby making the camp terribly unfit for human habitation.
“I don’t like this environment because it is highly polluted. The only toilet here is always messed up because of the large population here, and there is no water to keep the environment clean,” Progress complained further.
But today, it appears that she has very little to complain about. At the weekend, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) flooded the camp with relief materials, including food, drugs and mosquito nets.
“We are very glad for what NEMA has done for us today. We have been suffering ever since we came to this camp, but today, NEMA has addressed some of our needs,
“I am surprised to see this huge support from NEMA. This is the highest we have received since we were relocated to this camp from our community,” said Mrs. Victoria Odogwu.
Indeed, at the weekend, NEMA distributed various food items and relief materials to the flood victims camped at the Mbiama, Akinima andAkiniso IDPs camps in Ahoada West LGA of the state.
The items loaded in five long trucks were directly given to the affected victims at the various IDPs camps in the LGA to ensure the items got to the people they were meant for.
The items included; bags of rice, bags of beans, bags of garri, 20 litter cans of red oil, cartons of tin tomatoes, cartons of milk, cartons of Milo, bags of sugar, bags of salt, cartons of maggi.
Others were: bags of detergent, cartons of bathing soap, drugs, and clothes for adults and children, mattresses, blankets and mosquito nets.
Speaking with newsmen at the Mbiama and Akinima camps respectively, Mr. Yakubu Suleiman, NEMA’s Head of Operations, Rivers/Bayelsa States Flood Emergency Relief Centre, said the supply was in line with the recommendation for category ‘A’ flooded states, adding that the supply is part of the Agency’s intervention to provide relief for the affected persons in the areas.
Suleiman stated that the distribution of the relief items would be done in two categories – to the flood victims staying in the IDPs camps – and secondly those accommodated by their friends and relations in the various communities.
Suleiman said: “In continuation of our material service for the people that were displaced in the 2018 flood issue in Rivers and Bayelsa, we are here to distribute materials in Mbiama, Akinima and Akinso camps and communities.
“This is our third time of coming here. We were here about three weeks ago to distribute food and non-food items.
“We are presently at Akinima town hall IDP camp, the pioneer IDP camp for Rivers State. As you know, the Orashi River has a great impact on this community. And you will recall that it was at this camp that four babies were delivered, and we are still taking care of those babies.
“We are also bringing food and non-food items to this camp for the second time. We need to replenish their food- stuff; we need to ensure their health is protected by providing them with blankets, mosquito nets, mattresses, buckets, soap, and the likes.
Suleiman noted that the absence of the State Emergency Agency, (SEMA) Rivers state, made the distribution a bit tedious, stressing the need for SEMA to do away with the bureaucracy characteristic of government agencies during emergency situations in the state.
He commended the Rivers state Ministry of Special Duties, and the Joint Task Force for their contributions in the smooth distribution of the items to the IDPs in the various camps.
The Paramount leader of Mbiama Community, Chief Emmanuel Dike, commended NEMA for its intervention in the flooded area, and urged the Federal Government to find a lasting solution to the flood menace in the area and the entire Rivers state.
He also called on the government to mount a skills acquisition programme for the flood victims, as well as provide them with start-up funds so they could begin life again when the flood recedes.
“I pity my people because their farmlands have been devastated as a result of the flood. They don’t have anywhere to lay hands on now. They have been living in this camp with no hope of where to go after here because even their rooms, houses have been destroyed by the flood.
“Yes, the food items brought by NEMA will solve their problems temporarily, but before December hunger will again catch up with them,” lamented Chief Dike.
Mrs. Odogwu urged the government to help the flood victims return to their communities, saying that a lasting solution should be found to the perennial flooding of the area.
Progress has been out of school since the flood took over the community, but she told The AUTHORITY that “am anxious to go back to school.” But the snag is that with the continued presence of the deluge, she cannot return to the school in her community.
One of the health workers in charge of Mbiama camp, Oganwu Matthew, complained of insufficient supply of drugs by the government, even as he commended NEMA for providing some drugs and ointment for the victims.
“We have been having cases of ill health and I have been taking care of them but our major problem now is drugs for patients. Any case I can’t handle, I refer it to general hospital.
“Most of the flood victims here have been bitten by mosquitoes as a result of insufficient net, but now that NEMA has brought more nets, the issue of mosquito bite resulting to malaria will reduce,” he said.
Mr. Eric Amabipi, a staff of the Rivers State Ministry of Special Duties who represented the Commissioner lauded NEMA for effective distribution of the relief materials to the victims.
He said: “The Ministry is basically here to ensure that the materials were distributed accurately. With what I have seen here today, NEMA has done so well in the intervention of the flood victims, not only in terms of distribution of foods and other materials but also in distribution of medical items.”
Last week, some residential houses in Akinima, Akinso, Mbiama and other neighbouring communities were still swimming in the flood. Our correspondent, who visited the areas, saw some residents accessing their buildings, especially storey buildings with ladders. while some others used canoe to get to their houses in search of their personal effects that had not been swept away by the flood.