John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Is the West Uninterested in Nigeria’s Floods?

by John Campbell
October 26, 2012

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)


It baffles me that the Western media is paying so little attention to the flooding in Nigeria. There are dramatic aerial photographs of the flooding in the Delta, and affected areas spread as far afield as Kano and Kogi states in northern and central Nigeria.

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?

Post a Comment 4 Comments

  • Posted by Chavuka

    But how many serious Western journalists are there in Nigeria? I doubt they are up to 30 in number.

    There are capacity constraints and attention span constraints. The Western audience dictates the news agenda out of Africa and since this is the “year of Boko Haram”, it has been decreed that nothing will stand in the way of Boko Haram stories, floods included.

    The more serious constraint is resource based. Western media outfits are under-resourced and ill-equipped to cover Africa in any depth. In addition, Western media is embarking on a slow retreat from Africa.

  • Posted by ckw

    But the traditional media are not the only route to get the message across – social media could have an important impact – particularly if the Nigeria diaspora are interested enough to start to spread the news of this unfolding tragedy internationally. Sadly I see little sign of this.

  • Posted by Chavuka

    Let me also add the Western NGOs provide most of the logistics for Western journalists covering disasters in Africa.

    So if the NGOs maintain silence, Western journalists will follow suit, simply because the journalists lack the resources to carry out independent evaluation of flood ridden areas (which tend to be remote and of little interest to news editors – weak business case).

  • Posted by femi

    It reinforces the notion that the problems we face in nigeria will have to be solved by nigerians
    I think we are doing a pretty decent job despite resource constraints
    Tackling an islamic insurgency and the violent offsprings of osama bin laden’s ideology and dealing with flooding and other sundry cases
    The same media will come back when we rise as africa’s china
    I am not being an optimist. it is just the fact
    Then fortune will smile on the hard nosed risk takers who sided with the country of 160 million people at its darkest moments

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