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Million individuals across eastern Africa affected by unprecedented flooding due to El Niño

Million individuals across eastern Africa affected by unprecedented flooding due to El Niño
10 May 2024 08:00


Almost a million individuals in eastern Africa are grappling with a severe humanitarian crisis as unprecedented flooding, triggered by the 2023-24 El Niño, devastates communities across Burundi, Kenya, Somalia, and Tanzania, UNICEF said on Thursday.

The deluge has claimed hundreds of lives and displaced hundreds of thousands, exposing region’s acute vulnerability to climate-induced disasters.

In Kenya, relentless rains have affected 41 of the country's 47 counties, UNICEF reported, displacing over 54,000 households and impacting nearly 294,000 individuals. The floodwaters have not only destroyed homes, but have also ravaged infrastructure and agricultural lands, leading to significant losses of crops and livestock. Schools and health facilities have also suffered extensive damage, disrupting education and critical services. Additionally, a cholera outbreak has emerged, compounding the challenges faced by the communities, the UN organisation added.

"The heavy rains and subsequent floods have disrupted lives and posed significant risks, particularly to children in the affected regions," explained Etleva Kadilli, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa. In a statement, Kadilli emphasised the urgency of addressing the safety, health, and basic needs of the affected populations, particularly ensuring that children can continue their education and receive psychological support.

Burundi and Tanzania are also severely hit. In Burundi, ongoing floods and landslides have put over 306,000 individuals at risk, with around 227,000 people affected and nearly 95,000 displaced, UNICEF said. Vital infrastructure, including homes and classrooms, has been severely damaged, leaving swathes of agricultural land devastated. Similarly, Tanzania has seen over 210,000 people affected, with 161 fatalities and significant damage to infrastructure, further exacerbated by the recent Tropical Cyclone Hidaya, the NGO added.

Somalia faces a critical situation as well, according to the organisation, with more than 160,000 affected, two-thirds of whom are children. The floods have severely damaged infrastructure and have hindered the delivery of humanitarian aid to affected districts, posing a serious threat to towns like Beletweyne and Jowhar in Hirshabelle state.

Amidst this escalating crisis, UNICEF warned that community vulnerability, especially children, young people, and women - including those with disabilities - has intensified, raising grave concerns about their future in the region. "Children, young people, and women are particularly at risk of violence, abuse, and exploitation as humanitarian needs continue to increase," Kadilli stressed.

The impact of climate change in Eastern and Southern Africa has been stark, with extreme weather events becoming more intense and frequent. From the prolonged drought that affected Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia from 2020 to 2023 to the severe floods that began in late 2023, the region has been at the forefront of climate crises.

Kadilli called for sustained and flexible support from donors and multilateral climate funds. "The cost, scale, and complexity of climate crises are only going to increase across the region," she stated. Collaborative efforts with governments in climate prevention and preparedness programmes are crucial for saving lives and enhancing the resilience of communities repeatedly struck by climate emergencies.

As schools in the affected areas plan to reopen, the focus remains on rebuilding and recovery, with a critical need for humanitarian assistance to support the millions affected by these devastating floods, according to UNICEF.

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