Climate change has increased the likelihood of intense rains 80 times, causing historic floods in Nigeria, which have killed more than 600 people in recent months and devastated agriculture in Africa’s most populous country, according to a World Weather Attribution study.
More than 1.4 million displaced people and hundreds of thousands of hectares of crops were ravaged by these extraordinary floods, which also affected Niger, Chad, and neighboring countries, amid a food crisis linked to the war in Ukraine.
The exceptional rainfall levels in the region around Lake Chad since the start of the rainy season in June are believed to be the main cause of this tragedy.
By destroying crops, these floods risk aggravating the food crisis affecting these impoverished regions, already struggling with the fallout from the war in Ukraine, which has caused the prices of fertilizers and food products to soar.
“Families in West Africa are already exhausted due to conflict, the socio-economic fallout from the pandemic and soaring food prices. These floods are multiplying misery and breaking the camel’s back for communities already struggling to keep their heads above water,” said Chris Nikoi, Regional Director of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) for West Africa.
“WFP is on the ground to help flood-affected families get back on their feet, providing a package of immediate responses, while helping to build community resilience to future shocks and paving the way for recovery out of this catastrophic situation,” Mr. Nikoi added.
WFP emergency food assistance is provided in the form of food and cash transfers to help affected families meet their basic food and nutrition needs at a time when food prices are soaring, already making basic meals out of reach of vulnerable families.
“It’s excruciating, but there’s nothing you can do, you just have to be strong,” sighs a Nigerian farmer from his plot on the outskirts of Kano city. Normally, his rice fields produce about 200 bags of rice. This season “I’m not sure I can take half a bag,” he says, annoyed. “Thousands of farms have been destroyed,” said Manzo Ezekiel, spokesman for the Nigerian Crisis Management Agency.
But “climate change caused by human activity has made this event about 80 times more likely and about 20% more intense”, concludes the World Weather Attribution (WWA), author of the report published Wednesday, November 16.
In the Lake Chad region, the “above-average rainfall” recorded this year “now has about a one in ten chance of occurring each year”. In contrast, it was extremely rare before the climatic impact of the use of fossil fuels believes the WWA. Scientists also looked at the seven-day peak rainfall along the lower Niger River basin in Nigeria. They conclude that “climate change made the event about twice as likely and about 5% more intense.”
In Niger, a border country, the rains caused the river of the same name to overflow. The floods killed 159 people and affected more than 225,000, according to official figures. This rainy season is thus one of the most devastating that the Sahelian country has ever known.
WWA researchers also looked at the drought in the Sahel, which has worsened the current food crisis in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Nigeria. This shortage “came after an erratic rainy season in 2021, which affected agricultural production and reduced food stocks months later”, recalls the WWA.
These findings were published just after the conclusion of COP27 in Egypt. Negotiators at the conference signed the ‘loss and damage’ agreement to transfer funds from wealthy nations, the biggest polluters on the planet, to vulnerable countries that are now suffering from the consequences of climate change despite it being no fault of their own.