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Nigeria battles record flooding

Churches rally support for affected communities


People paddle canoes along flooded residential streets In Bayelsa, Nigeria, on Thursday. Associated Press/Photo by Reed Joshua

Nigeria battles record flooding

The Rev. Simeon Avajara hopped into a canoe on Sunday to celebrate Mass in Geregu village, one of the flood-affected communities in Nigeria’s Kogi state. Only a few people made it to church, but Avajara—who pastors six congregations in the surrounding villages—took the opportunity to encourage people.

“It’s only God we’re looking up to,” he said.

Nigeria’s worst flooding in a decade has affected at least 27 of the country’s 36 states. Emergency authorities say the disaster has left more than 603 people dead and displaced 1.3 million others. The damage extends to homes and farmlands and has prompted calls for more support to avoid a larger crisis. In the meantime, some churches are stepping in to bolster the government’s support.

Federal officials on Sunday said the floodwaters affected more than 200,000 homes and more than 800,000 acres of farmland, sparking concerns about a food shortage. A major Nigerian energy company this week said it can’t supply natural gas to its international customers as expected due to the deluge. Forecasters have said heavy rainfall will continue until the end of November in some states.

Authorities blamed the flooding on unusually heavy rains this year and water released from the Lagdo Dam in neighboring Cameroon. But experts also pointed to poor city planning and infrastructure.

The World Food Program on Monday noted that “above-average rainfall” across West and Central Africa is driving up humanitarian needs. Chad declared a national emergency on Wednesday as flooding there affects 1 million people.

Avajara said the floodwaters have completely submerged some farmlands in Geregu, where many farmers grow rice. “They were digging out premature yams and cassava to see if they could salvage them,” he said.

The disaster has spurred a community response. One church member whose home was spared has taken in four other families. Some children are also staying in the mission house, Avajara added.

Living Faith Church distributed packs of rice, beans, and cash to about 1,000 households in Kogi state. Pastor Gabriel Ogirima, who leads one of the church’s branches elsewhere in the state, said Living Faith’s aid supports families in at least four counties.

The water has started receding gradually in some areas. But Avajara is preparing his community for the next phase. On Sunday, he encouraged church members not to rush back home without fumigating to avoid waterborne diseases from spreading.

World radar

CHINA: Videos surfaced this week of Chinese Consulate staffers in Manchester, England,  beating up a pro-democracy protester. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the protester illegally entered the consulate. The protester told the BBC that the men dragged him inside before police officers intervened and got him out. The assault happened as China’s Communist Party this week held its annual Congress—a weeklong political gathering of some 2,300 nationwide delegates at the Beijing Great Hall of the People. Some key takeaways from the Congress:

  • In his two-hour speech, Chinese leader Xi Jinping hailed the country’s zero-COVID policy, a sign the restrictive measures across China and Hong Kong are not going away anytime soon.

  • Xi also took a strong stance on Taiwan and said China would continue to seek complete reunification, adding, “We reserve the option of taking all measures necessary.”

  • The Congress is also expected to reappoint Xi as president for another five years, marking his third term in office.

IRAN: Security forces have continued to crack down violently on dissent since protests began last month in support of Mahsa Amini. The 22-year-old died in police custody after Iranian morality police detained her for not wearing her hijab properly. Sixteen-year-old Asra Panahi died last week after security forces beat high school students for failing to sing an anthem praising Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Authorities have raided schools as videos emerge of students waving their hijabs and chanting anti-regime slogans. Meanwhile, Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi returned to Tehran this week following reports she went missing after competing without a hijab in South Korea. Rekabi said she accidentally forgot her hair covering while competing and returned to Iran peacefully. But some activists have said Iran likely forced her to make her statement.

GERMANY: The Foreign and Interior ministries started a new program Monday to welcome Afghans at risk of persecution to the European country. The humanitarian relocation program aims to bring in 1,000 Afghans each month from among people who are in danger because of their religion or work in politics and human rights. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the selection would focus on women and girls. Germany has taken in about 26,000 Afghans since August, many of whom had worked for the German military.

ERITREA: Security forces at the international airport in Asmara detained Roman Catholic Bishop Abune Fikremariam Hagos as he returned from Europe. Police confirmed his arrest to church authorities but did not give a reason. Eritrean forces detained two other priests in recent weeks. The arrests come as Eritrea intensifies its military conscription for the war in neighboring Ethiopia. Across the border, the Ethiopian military announced it captured three towns in the embattled Tigray region. The war is taking its toll as more reports of atrocities emerge, including both sides using civilians in the “human wave tactic”—when an army sacrifices waves of foot soldiers at the start of an advance to force the enemy to use up its ammunition.  

INDONESIA: Last week, we reported that more than 70 Gambian children died from acute kidney injury linked to imported Indian cough syrups. In Indonesia, health authorities on Thursday said 99 children have died from acute kidney injuries, among more than 200 confirmed cases this year. The food and drug agency said the cough syrups now banned in Gambia are not locally available in Indonesia. Authorities temporarily banned the sale of all syrup and liquid medicines and created an expert team to investigate the surge in cases.

MYANMAR: Villagers in central Magway region of the country also known as Burma say the military killed and left the decapitated body of a high school teacher on display at the burned-down school. Saw Tun Moe’s death is part of the junta’s ongoing crackdown on the opposition.

CHAD: At least 50 people died after deadly protests demanding a faster return to democracy.

KENYA: The Nairobi West Hospital has completed the nation’s first bone marrow transplant. Hospital officials identified the recipient as a 55-year-old woman battling multiple myeloma.


Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD’s Africa reporter and deputy global desk chief. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University–Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria.

@onize_ohiks

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