Is the West Uninterested in Nigeria’s Floods?

A man carries a child as he wades through flood waters in Ikorodu neighborhood of Nigeria’s main city of Lagos 05/08/2007 (George Esiri/Courtesy Reuters)

by John Campbell

Over a million people have been displaced. In the Delta alone, tens of thousands have been moved into camps that are ill-equipped to receive them. Crop fields and fisheries in their thousands of hectares are completely flooded and destroyed. Local food shortages seem inevitable; though President Goodluck Jonathan is confident existing grain stores will be sufficient. In over-crowded camps with poor sanitation, the spread of infectious disease also seems inevitable. Deaths–direct and indirect–from flooding in Nigeria this season, may exceed the total associated with Boko Haram.

UN humanitarian agencies often sound the alarm about impending humanitarian crises, as they have done in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. For example, the World Health Organization’s Africa Regional Director, Dr. Luis Gomes Sambo, on October 25, called attention to the Sahel’s need for international help to combat Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) that have spread because of flooding in that region. But these UN agencies are, by and large, not present in the Niger Delta. Other international NGOs, including Oxfam and the Red Cross and Red Crescent, are present however. Their relative quiet is hard to understand. The Nigerian federal government in Abuja does not seem to be asking for the international assistance it clearly needs.

Meanwhile, the Western media is, almost universally, giving the flooding stories a pass. Is it a case of seeing the floods as yet another dreary story out of Africa, and Nigeria in particular, that allows news agencies to draw the conclusion that their readership would have only a limited interest?

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