Issah pictured in Ozahi, Kogi state, Nigeria 13 June 2013 © David Fogden / IFRC
Issah pictured in Ozahi, Kogi state, Nigeria 13 June 2013 © David Fogden / IFRC

The Niger River had always been generous to Issah Adoza, providing the 68 year-old with tilapia to feed his eight children and water during the rainy season to help his crops to grow. However in 2012, heavy rains caused the river to overflow, leading to serious flooding, and bringing misery to Issah’s family.

Issah lives in Ozahi, a small village in Kogi state, and an area of the country that was one of the worst affected by the floods, the like of which had not been seen for over 40 years. When the floods came, Issah travelled with his wife by boat to Ozi, a village on higher ground five kilometres away, where he stayed for more than three months. “Everybody scattered,” he recalls.

Once the flood waters had receded, Issah returned to his village to find it in ruins. Since many people used mud bricks to build the walls of their houses, many walls simply “melted” away when the high waters came, causing home after home to collapse. “The floods destroyed everything, my home and crops. All my belongings were swept away,” sighs Issah.

The Red Cross is supporting 100 families in three communities in Kogi state whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged by the flooding. In Ozahi, Issah’s is one of 30 households being helped to rebuild their homes using local practices.

“We have used practices that people in the communities are already using and will understand, but we have adapted and improved them to help ensure their homes are safer and more resilient should there be further flooding,” explains Abdulkadir Bello Ahmed, Nigerian Red Cross.

Each house has a wooden frame, which is fixed to concrete columns using storm straps to ensure it will not collapse if there is flooding. The zinc roof is also braced and fixed using the straps to safely secure it during high winds. The walls are made from concrete, which are built five blocks high on a cement and sand foundation. The floor is also made with concrete, and mud slopes are created on the outside of the walls to allow water to flow away from the house.

Once this has been completed, the families themselves are then responsible for fortifying the walls using materials they are able to afford. The Red Cross sensitized community members on practices they can use to further protect their homes, such as using mud bricks to build up the walls, using a polythene layer between them, and concrete bricks to stop them from absorbing water.

The 2013 rainy season has begun, but Issah is confident that his newly completed house will stand up should there be further flooding. “No flood will take this one away. I feel very safe. Only God will bring it down. My grandson’s grandson will be able to live in this house!”

By David Fogden (IFRC) and Victoria Madamidola (Nigerian Red Cross Society), Ozahi, Kogi state, Nigeria, 13 June 2013