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Effects of Flooding on the Mental Health of Flood Victims in Ogbaru Local Government Area, Anambra State

Abstract

This study delved into the mental health impacts of flooding on residents of Ogbaru Local Government Area in Anambra State, Nigeria. A quantitative survey research design was adopted to collect data using a structured questionnaire from a sample of 120 respondents directly affected by flooding. Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 27 was utilized for data presentation and analysis, including the application of t-tests to test the hypotheses formulated in the study. The findings of the study revealed significant insights into the mental health challenges faced by flood victims in the study area. Results from the one-sample t-test indicated that flood victims indeed experienced higher levels of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues post-flooding compared to non-flood-affected residents. Active coping strategies, such as seeking social support and engaging in positive coping activities, were associated with better mental health outcomes among flood victims, emphasizing the importance of effective coping mechanisms in disaster resilience. The study concluded that adequate social support networks significantly contributed to reducing the severity of mental health issues among flood victims. Findings underscored the crucial role of social support systems in mitigating the mental health effects of flooding and promoting mental well-being in disaster-affected communities. Based on these conclusions, several recommendations were proposed to enhance mental health interventions and support services for flood victims. Recommendations included the development and implementation of targeted mental health programs focusing on coping strategies and social support networks. Furthermore, initiatives aimed at raising awareness about mental health issues post-flooding and reducing the stigma surrounding seeking professional mental health services were suggested. Strengthening community-based support systems and integrating mental health considerations into disaster risk reduction and management strategies were also recommended to build resilience and improve mental health outcomes in disaster-prone regions like Ogbaru Local Government Area. In conclusion, this study not only contributed to the academic knowledge base regarding disaster mental health but also provided practical insights and recommendations for policymakers, mental health professionals, and community stakeholders. By addressing the specific mental health needs of flood victims and emphasizing the importance of social support and coping mechanisms, this research supported efforts in building more resilient and mentally healthy communities in the face of natural disasters.

 

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background to the Study

Floods are formidable natural disasters known for their significant impacts on communities, ranging from infrastructure damage to the disruption of social and economic activities, as well as the loss of livelihoods (Crossman et al., 2020). While the immediate aftermath of floods manifests in visible physical destruction, their ramifications extend far beyond, affecting the very fabric of society and individuals’ well-being. Recent years have witnessed a noticeable uptick in the frequency and intensity of flooding events globally, a trend attributed in part to the effects of climate change, urbanization, and deforestation (Bankoff, 2023).

Climate change plays a pivotal role in altering weather patterns and increasing the likelihood of extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall and storms, which contribute to flooding (Bankoff, 2023). The warming climate leads to more moisture in the atmosphere, resulting in intensified rainfall and higher chances of flooding in vulnerable areas. Urbanization and deforestation further exacerbate this vulnerability by altering natural drainage systems and increasing impermeable surfaces, such as paved roads and buildings, which prevent water from infiltrating the soil during heavy rainfall events (Du Plessis, 2020).

The consequences of floods are multifaceted and severe, affecting various sectors of society. Infrastructure damage includes roads, bridges, buildings, and utilities, disrupting transportation systems, access to services, and communication networks (Crossman et al., 2020). Loss of livelihoods is another significant impact, particularly in agricultural communities where crops, livestock, and fishing activities are severely affected by floodwaters (Holmes, 2020). This loss of income can lead to economic hardship, food insecurity, and displacement, amplifying vulnerabilities among already marginalized populations.

Moreover, floods disrupt social and economic activities, leading to temporary or prolonged closure of businesses, schools, and healthcare facilities (Dixit, 2023). This disruption not only hampers economic productivity but also affects social cohesion and community resilience. Increased health risks, such as waterborne diseases and injuries, add to the challenges faced by flood-affected populations, especially in regions with inadequate sanitation and healthcare infrastructure (IRIN, 2020).

Nigeria, including Anambra State, has not been immune to these challenges, experiencing its share of devastating floods over the years (Adam, 2019). The southern African region, including Nigeria, has witnessed storm rainfall events that have led to widespread flooding, causing immense damage to property and livelihoods (IRIN, 2020). Within Anambra State, the Ogbaru Local Government Area stands out as particularly vulnerable due to its low-lying geography and proximity to major rivers like the Niger (African Wildlife, 2020). These geographical factors, combined with inadequate infrastructure and poor urban planning, exacerbate the impact of floods on communities and individuals.

The aftermath of flooding extends far beyond mere physical infrastructure damage, encompassing serious threats to public health and safety (Du Plessis, 2020). Floodwaters often become breeding grounds for waterborne diseases, posing heightened risks to affected populations. Injuries are also common during floods, ranging from physical trauma to accidents in hazardous conditions. Moreover, floods can trigger mental health challenges, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), among individuals coping with the aftermath of the disaster.

The disruption of social and economic activities adds layers of complexity to the challenges faced by communities in the recovery phase post-flood (Holmes, 2020). The loss of crops and livestock, particularly impactful in agricultural-dependent regions, not only leads to immediate food shortages but also contributes to long-term economic hardships. This loss of livelihood can push already vulnerable communities deeper into poverty, exacerbating inequalities and amplifying social vulnerabilities.

Additionally, the economic repercussions of flood events ripple through various sectors, affecting businesses, employment opportunities, and market stability. Disrupted supply chains, damaged infrastructure, and decreased productivity can have lasting impacts on local economies, hindering recovery efforts and prolonging socio-economic hardships (Dixit, 2023). Small businesses and informal livelihoods are often disproportionately affected, further widening the economic gap within communities.

The compounding effects of public health threats, economic disruptions, and social challenges highlight the need for holistic approaches to post-flood recovery and resilience-building (Bankoff, 2023). This includes not only immediate response measures such as emergency healthcare services and relief aid but also long-term strategies focused on rebuilding infrastructure, revitalizing livelihoods, and strengthening community resilience. Engaging with local communities and leveraging their knowledge and capacities is crucial in developing contextually relevant and sustainable recovery plans (Huysamen, 2021).

Furthermore, investing in disaster risk reduction measures, early warning systems, and climate adaptation strategies can mitigate the impacts of future flood events (Dixit, 2023). This proactive approach, combined with community-based disaster preparedness initiatives and collaborative partnerships among stakeholders, is key to enhancing resilience and reducing vulnerabilities in flood-prone areas. By addressing the interconnected challenges of public health, socio-economic disruptions, and environmental risks, societies can better navigate the complexities of flood recovery and build more resilient communities.

Efforts to manage flood risks and mitigate their impacts require a multi-faceted approach that integrates disaster management strategies, climate adaptation measures, and sustainable development practices (Hansson et al., 2020). Effective flood risk management involves early warning systems, resilient infrastructure design, land-use planning, and community-based disaster preparedness initiatives (Dixit, 2023). These strategies aim to reduce vulnerabilities and enhance the resilience of communities facing recurrent flood events.

In the context of Nigeria, where flooding is a recurring challenge, there is a growing recognition of the need for improved disaster management practices and policies (Carter, 2019). This includes enhancing early warning systems, investing in flood-resistant infrastructure, and promoting community engagement in disaster preparedness and response (Babbie & Mouton, 2021). Additionally, addressing underlying issues such as urban sprawl, inadequate drainage systems, and deforestation can contribute to reducing the severity of flood impacts in vulnerable areas (Grunfet, 2019).

The role of stakeholders, including government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia, and communities themselves, is crucial in developing comprehensive flood risk management strategies (Huysamen, 2021). Collaborative efforts that leverage local knowledge, scientific expertise, and resources can lead to more effective and sustainable solutions for flood resilience (Khandlhela & May 2022). Engaging in participatory approaches that involve affected communities in decision-making processes ensures that interventions are contextually appropriate and inclusive.

In essence, floods represent complex challenges with far-reaching impacts on communities, economies, and environments. Understanding the interconnected factors contributing to flooding, such as climate change, land-use practices, and socio-economic vulnerabilities, is essential for developing holistic flood risk management strategies. By addressing these challenges through collaborative, multi-sectoral approaches, we can enhance resilience and reduce the adverse effects of floods on vulnerable populations and ecosystems.

Statement of Problem

The research on the effects of flooding on the mental health of flood victims in Ogbaru Local Government Area, Anambra State, reveals several critical areas that require further exploration and understanding. Previous studies have extensively documented the immediate physical and economic impacts of floods, including infrastructure damage, loss of livelihoods, and disruption of social and economic activities (Crossman et al., 2020; Holmes, 2020). However, there exists a notable gap in comprehensively addressing the long-term mental health repercussions of flooding on affected populations in this specific region.

One of the significant gaps in the existing literature is the limited focus on the mental health outcomes experienced by flood victims, particularly regarding psychological distress, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Du Plessis, 2020). While studies acknowledge increased risks of waterborne diseases and injuries among flood-affected communities, there is a lack of in-depth research into the mental health challenges faced by individuals in the Ogbaru Local Government Area following flood events. Understanding these mental health issues is crucial as they can have enduring impacts on individuals’ well-being, recovery processes, and overall quality of life (Fernandez et al., 2023).

Furthermore, while broader socio-economic impacts such as food insecurity and economic hardships for agricultural-dependent communities have been touched upon in previous research (Holmes, 2020), there is a need for a nuanced examination of how these factors intersect with mental health outcomes post-flooding. For instance, investigating how the loss of crops and livelihoods due to flooding contributes to stress and psychological distress among residents of Ogbaru can provide valuable insights into developing targeted interventions to address these interconnected challenges (Ugwu & Ugwu, 2023).

Another critical aspect that requires attention is the context-specific vulnerabilities and resilience factors within Ogbaru Local Government Area. While general flood management and disaster response strategies exist, they may not adequately address the unique socio-cultural, economic, and environmental dynamics of this region (Babbie & Mouton, 2021). Understanding the community’s coping mechanisms, social support networks, and cultural beliefs regarding mental health can inform the development of culturally sensitive and contextually relevant interventions to support mental health resilience and recovery post-flooding.

Addressing these gaps in research is essential for formulating evidence-based policies and interventions that can effectively support the mental health and well-being of flood victims in the Ogbaru Local Government Area. By delving deeper into the specific mental health challenges, vulnerabilities, and resilience factors of this population, stakeholders can design targeted psychosocial support programs, mental health services, and community resilience-building initiatives that foster long-term recovery and enhance overall disaster preparedness in the region (Abdulmalik et al., 2023).

Objectives of the Study

The following specific objectives were investigated:

  1. To assess the psychological impact of flooding on residents of Ogbaru Local Government Area in Anambra State.
  2. To identify coping mechanisms employed by flood victims in dealing with mental health challenges post-flooding.
  3. To examine the role of social support systems in mitigating the mental health effects of flooding on flood victims.

 Research Questions

The following questions were examined:

  1. What are the common mental health challenges experienced by flood victims in Ogbaru Local Government Area?
  2. How do flood victims cope with psychological distress following a flood event?
  3. What is the perceived effectiveness of existing social support systems in addressing the mental health needs of flood victims?

Research Hypotheses

The following hypotheses were tested:

Null Hypotheses(H0):

  1. Flood victims in Ogbaru Local Government Area do not experience higher levels of anxiety and depression compared to non-flood-affected residents.
  2. Active coping strategies such as seeking social support and engaging in positive coping activities are not associated with better mental health outcomes among flood victims.
  3. Adequate social support networks do not significantly contribute to reducing the severity of mental health issues among flood victims.

Alternative Hypotheses(H1):

  1. Flood victims in Ogbaru Local Government Area experience higher levels of anxiety and depression compared to non-flood-affected residents.
  2. Active coping strategies such as seeking social support and engaging in positive coping activities are associated with better mental health outcomes among flood victims.
  3. Adequate social support networks significantly contribute to reducing the severity of mental health issues among flood victims.

 Significance of the Study

This study holds significant importance for various reasons that extend beyond the immediate scope of flood management and disaster response:

Firstly, it brings attention to an aspect of disaster management that is often overlooked—the mental health of individuals affected by natural disasters, in this case, flooding. While the physical and economic impacts of floods are widely acknowledged, the psychological toll on individuals and communities is often underestimated or sidelined. By focusing on the mental health outcomes of flood victims in the Ogbaru Local Government Area, this study highlights the importance of addressing psychological well-being alongside physical recovery efforts.

Secondly, the findings of this study have practical implications for policymakers, humanitarian organizations, and mental health practitioners involved in disaster response and recovery. Understanding the specific mental health needs and challenges faced by flood victims can guide the development of targeted interventions and support services. Policymakers can use these insights to allocate resources effectively and implement policies that prioritize mental health support in post-disaster contexts. Humanitarian organizations can tailor their assistance programs to include psychosocial support components, ensuring a more holistic approach to disaster relief. Mental health practitioners can gain valuable insights into the unique stressors and trauma experienced by flood-affected populations, enabling them to provide culturally sensitive and evidence-based mental health care.

Furthermore, this study contributes to the broader body of knowledge on disaster psychology and resilience, particularly within the context of a developing country like Nigeria. Research on mental health outcomes in disaster settings is crucial for advancing our understanding of human responses to adversity and identifying factors that promote resilience. By exploring the psychological impacts of flooding in the Ogbaru Local Government Area, this study adds valuable data to the existing literature on disaster resilience and recovery strategies. It provides a localized perspective on how communities in flood-prone areas cope with and adapt to the psychological challenges posed by natural disasters.

Additionally, the study’s focus on mental health in the context of a developing country like Nigeria is particularly significant. Developing countries often face unique challenges in terms of resource constraints, infrastructure limitations, and socio-cultural dynamics that influence disaster response and recovery efforts. By studying mental health outcomes in this context, the study not only addresses a critical gap in research but also contributes to building knowledge and capacity for more effective disaster management strategies tailored to the specific needs of vulnerable populations in developing regions.

Scope of the Study

This study focuses specifically on the mental health effects of flooding on residents of Ogbaru Local Government Area in Anambra State, Nigeria. It considers both short-term impacts immediately following flood events and long-term psychological consequences. The study does not delve into other aspects of disaster management such as physical infrastructure damage or economic losses.

Operational Definition of Terms

Flooding: The overflow of water onto land that is normally dry, caused by heavy rainfall, river overflow, or other water-related events.

Mental Health: Refers to the emotional, psychological, and social well-being of an individual, encompassing aspects such as mood, behbehaviournd coping abilities.

Flood Victims: Individuals or communities directly impacted by flooding, including those who experience property damage, displacement, or psychological distress.

Coping Mechanisms: Strategies employed by individuals to manage stress, trauma, or adversity, which may include problem-solving, seeking social support, or engaging in relaxation techniques.

Social Support Systems: Networks of family, friends, community organizations, and professional services that provide emotional, practical, or informational assistance to individuals in times of need.

Psychological Impact: Refers to the effects of flooding on mental health and well-being, including symptoms of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other psychological conditions.

Resilience: The ability of individuals or communities to withstand and recover from adversity, including natural disasters, by adapting, coping, and maintaining a sense of well-being.

Anambra State: A state located in southeastern Nigeria, known for its diverse culture, economic activities, and susceptibility to seasonal flooding due to its geography and river systems.

References

  • Turner, L. R., Alderman, K., Huang, C., & Tong, S. (2023). Impact of the 2021 Queensland floods on the use of tobacco, alcohol and medication. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 37(4), 396. PubMed| Google Scholar
  • Ugwu, L. I., & Ugwu, D. I. (2023). Gender, Floods and Mental Health: The Way Forward. International Journal of Asian Social Science, 3(4), 1030-1042. Google Scholar
  • United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). (n.d.). More than 1.5 million children are at risk as devastating floods hit Nigeria. Retrieved November 29, 2022, from [link]
  • World Health Organization. (2020). The impact of COVID-19 on mental, neurological and substance use services: results of a rapid assessment.
  • World Health Organization. (2023). mhGAP Humanitarian Intervention Guide (mhGAP-HIG): clinical management of mental, neurological and substance use conditions in humanitarian emergencies

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