This report looks at the impact of the Emergency Assistance for People Affected by Flood in Nigeria project implemented by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in partnership with the Justice Development and Peace Commission.
It was 7 a.m. in September 2022 when Aisha Yahaya's community of Ganuwar Kuka in Auyo, a town in the northeastern state of Jigawa, got submerged.
"I and my siblings and our parents had just woken up that morning when a young man from the community ran to inform us about the impending flood. Quickly, we picked a few of our clothes and escaped to Hadeija town, located just 3.5 kilometres away from her community," she explained.
"While we went to our elder sister's house, my parents escaped to Gandu Sarki Primary School, one of three camps established in Hadejia for persons displaced by flooding. The flood destroyed our house and everything we had."
Yahaya's family farm, over two hectares, was not spared. Everything they planted, including rice, guinea corn, beans, tomato, and peppers, was destroyed.
"We spent three months outside our community, and within that period, we struggled to feed," she recounted to Prime Progress. "There was no idea where our next meal would come from and when. The clothes we left behind while fleeing our home were gone with the flood, including foodstuffs and school uniforms of my siblings."
Ganuwar Kuka, one of the worst-hit communities in Jigawa State, located just a few miles away from the Hadejia River, a tributary of the Yobe River, is one of several Nigerian communities known for overflowing seasonally.
In 2020, the vast River Hadejia overflowed to various locations around it, killing at least 40 people and displacing thousands. In 2018, approximately 30 people were killed due to a flood that ravaged over 68,000 hectares of land in towns near the river.
Last year, the state government estimated that about a trillion-naira worth of properties were lost. Available reports show that at least 134 people died due to the flooding while 272,189 individuals were affected, and 76,887 houses were either completely destroyed or partially damaged, including Yahaya's properties.
When Yahaya and her family returned to their community after the floods had receded, help was not coming from anywhere. Some days, they went without eating.
"We even had some people from the government come to take our names with promises of providing help, but we did not see them again," she recalled. "Our hopes of survival were dashed."
Help at last
The narrative for Yahaya's family changed for the better after a team from the Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) of the Catholic Diocese of Kano visited her community to register households that would benefit from an emergency flood assistance project.
While the project was funded by Latter-day Saint Charities (LDS Charities)—the humanitarian arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it was implemented by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in partnership with JDPC Kano, which covers Jigawa State.
"We were in our house one day in February when a group came and said they wanted our details for a flood assistance project. I shouted at them because I thought it was one of those lies," she recalled.
"I finally agreed, and they took my details, and weeks later, I was asked to come to a certain location in the community. When I got there, I saw my name on the list of beneficiaries. I jumped and shouted. "Later, an account was opened in my name, and some money was paid into it."
Until now, Yahaya still cannot believe she received money from organisations she knew nothing about.
"With the money, I bought foodstuffs for the house, detergents, buckets, and gallons for storing water,". There are about 20 in the family," she said.
The money helped Yahaya pay school fees for her siblings; she also made new school uniforms after their old ones were washed away. She also bought chemicals for their farm.
According to Anselm Nwoke, CRS's partnership and capacity-strengthening coordinator in Nigeria, the focus of the project was to enable vulnerable households to recover from the effects of the flooding with the provision of food and non-food items through a two-tranche cash transfer and a one-time non-food item (NFI) assistance.
The project involved registering beneficiaries, after which selections were made based on some vulnerability criteria. JDPC director in Kano State, Sylvester Osoh, said that the CommCare application, used during household registration, made the process smooth and easy.
He said the commission had taken some food items to the community with initial support from the CRS before the Latter-Day Saints' support came in. He added that while over 1100 households were registered in Ganuwar Kuka community, 350 were selected.
Osoh said the entire community is happy and thankful for the project, which gives them life again. They are particularly excited because there was no religious discrimination, especially as Ganuwar Kuka is a predominantly Muslim community.
"It shows the extent to which the church can go in providing humanitarian support for people," he said. "This is not the first time that the church is providing such support to show that love exists."
One of the enumerators under Usman Mohammed said that during the registration process, community members had doubts, having been victims of failed promises by the government.
"But we assured them that the LDS Charities project was different," he said. "There are about 3500 households in Ganuwar Kuka, which is about the highest among the over 10 communities in the LG."
He said that the flood came with reptiles like snakes and that it took over a month of killing for them to disappear. He also noted that some community members were down with diseases arising from exposure to the flood.
"What is most worrying is that the community does not have a comprehensive healthcare centre, and so, it became difficult for the sick ones to receive care," he explained.
Isiaku Yinusa, a community leader in Ganuwar Kuka, said the 2022 flooding was devastating for members of his community. With other men, he slept on a mat in a filling station for the two months he spent outside his community waiting for the floods to recede.
"I escaped to Gandu Primary School IDP camp, but because of the population, I left my wives, four of them with my 28 children and came to the filling station with other men," he said. "As philanthropists and other NGOs helping flood victims brought relief materials, we took them to our wives."
Yinusa, who also benefited from the project, said that his four hectares of land where he planted guinea corn, rice, maise and potato were destroyed. His house was not spared. Altogether, he lost over N600,000 in investment to the flood.
He regretted that throughout the flooding, the government did not provide relief materials for his community, even after they came and had people write their names.
"They came and asked us what we lost in our farms and the extent of destruction of houses and made several promises. Sadly, we have not heard from or seen them to date," he said.
"But the assistance is helping me to rebuild my life again. I bought food with the money and fertiliser for my farm. I don't know how I would have survived. Every day, members of my community ask me to thank the church and the organisations that brought out money to help vulnerable households get back to their feet again."
After the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) warned that severe flooding would be witnessed in 2023, households in Ganuwar Kuka have been investing massively into wet season farming to be able to harvest before the destruction.