More than 100,000 people have been forced to leave their homes due to flooding in northwestern Nigeria, after a dam failed on the Rima River near Goronyo, Sokoto State, on 8 September.

Dozens of villages were rapidly submerged when a large section of the Goronyo dam’s spillway collapsed. The area is experiencing one of the wettest rainy seasons on record, which is being blamed for the collapse of the spillway.

In the affected villages, people have been struggling to hold back the rising waters with sandbags. Thousands of mud-brick houses have been destroyed by the flood.  Homeless people are living under improvised shelters of plastic sheeting and sticks, on whatever dry ground they can find. The fortunate are finding refuge with neighbours and families.

Others are fleeing to higher ground, wading with their families through floodwaters that are chest-deep in places, with their belongings balanced on their heads. At a secondary school in Goronyo town, thousands of people have sought shelter, along with their livestock. Conditions are cramped and unsanitary. People don’t know when they will be able to return to their villages, to salvage what is left of their homes and try to rebuild their lives.

In addition to losing their homes and possessions, many families have seen their crops completely wiped out, and their stores of food ruined.  In an area where people depend on subsistence agriculture, this represents a complete loss of livelihood. For these families, finding sufficient food will be a major concern in the coming months.

Following initial flooding, MSF distributed blankets and mosquito nets to thousands of displaced people and installed a water distribution system.  In the coming days, MSF will conduct a larger distribution, delivering supplies for up to 60,000 people – including tarpaulins, blankets, mosquito nets and soap – along with 600,000 litres per day of clean water.  

The full extent and numbers of people affected by the flooding are still unknown, and MSF is continuing to survey the area. Villages as far as 200 km from the dam have been affected. “It’s difficult to make an accurate assessment , “ said MSF project coordinator Chris HOUSTON, “because the roads are cut off and we’re relying essentially on word of mouth.”


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