Firpo Files 11-8-2012
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Nightmare in Nigeria

Floods & a forgotten people

The Firpo Files

(November 8, 2012)


Super Storm Sandy has captured the attention of the world, and rightly so. The unparalleled Katrina-like devastation first made landfall when it lashed against the U.S. east coast, including in its destructive path New York City, the most populous city in the States, and one of the most important urban centers in the world. This past week saw the Big Apple became the Drenched Apple!

But, just across the Atlantic in Nigeria--Africa's most populous nation--raging floods have displaced well over two million people. Reportedly, 7.7 million were affected by flooding for several previous months. Reuters reports that "363 people had been killed and 18,282 people injured."

The British news agency continues: "Flooding in the oil rich Niger Delta, where Africa's third longest river flows into the Atlantic ocean, has disrupted oil production to the tune of around 500,000 barrels per day (bpd)--more than a fifth of Nigeria's output--according to the Department of Petroleum Resources." Sadly, this nightmare in Nigeria is grossly underreported, and it seems a fuller disclosure is avoided by design.

However, this investigative journalist has come into possession of an earlier first-hand report from the field that accurately provides a truly behind-the-scenes perspective, the details of which have not been revealed in the news. While some figures have since been updated and are suspected to grow, here's a summary of the initial report:

‘Nigeria has been enduring the worst flooding in 50 years with at least 150 killed directly as a result of the flooding and 1,000,000 homeless and displaced. Flooding has affected 21 of the Nigeria's three dozen states. In the Delta region alone, tens of thousands have been moved into camps that are ill-equipped to receive them. 

‘Schoolhouses are being turned into makeshift camps. Fifty to 70 people cram into classrooms at night, while many others sleep outside. As families continue to languish in squalid camps short of food, water, shelter and the most basic of health care, this natural disaster is rapidly turning into a humanitarian crisis.

‘Hundreds of thousands of hectares of crop fields and fisheries are completely flooded and destroyed. President Goodluck Jonathan of the Ijaw ethnic group has reportedly said no food shortages are imminent. Though this may be the case for now, a deficiency in food supplies seems inevitable in the coming months. 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, an Islamic organization described as "terrorist" by Western sources that's responsible for the deaths of thousands in recent years. The amount of devastation aside, perhaps the worst part is that there is no infrastructure to repair or assist these poor people, and no one actually cares.'

Sandbagging "Sandy": As is the case with the Nigerian Nightmare, one group sprang into action to assist victims of Super Storm Sandy. Jehovah's Witnesses have an effective multilayered disaster-relief apparatus in place.

For instance, a network of Regional Building Committees (RBC) spans the globe (for example, South Africa had 25 in 2006), and another grid of Hospital Liaison Committees (HLC) is also strategically positioned around the world. And then there are Disaster Relief Committees.

Unpaid volunteers, all Jehovah's Witnesses, populate these committees that assist both Witnesses and non-Witnesses before, during, and after disasters. Worthy of note, too, is that the helpful services of the RBC and HLC are not restricted to disaster relief efforts.

The RBCs coordinate the construction of Kingdom Halls and other buildings associated with worship, and the HLCs receive direction from Hospital Information Services (HIS), primarily in connection with highly effective advanced surgical techniques associated with alternatives to blood transfusions.

BEFORE Sandy stormed ashore, Witness world headquarters in Brooklyn, New York (which sustained minor damage) contacted 21 RBCs along the eastern seaboard and other areas projected to be affected, as well as 130 circuit overseers (each responsible for 15-20 congregations of about 100 publishers). Instructions were issued regarding the 2,330 congregations in Sandy's path.

A reported 1,100 Witnesses evacuated to homes of fellow congregants in advance of the storm. First response RBC teams began work immediately. Twelve crews are now operating, with more on standby.

Demonstrating the cohesiveness of the 21 RBCs, they recently had a single, simultaneous conference call, along with Disaster Relief Committees. And the 130 circuit overseers are in communication with headquarters, accounting for all publishers, including Special Full-Time Servants.

But, alas! Another storm looms. Peace and blessings to all. Amen!