Torrential rains and floods in the Horn of Africa have displaced more than two million people and killed nearly 300, according to an AFP tally on Thursday (November 30th) based on government and United Nations figures.
While the region had just suffered the worst drought it had experienced in forty years, it has now been hit for weeks by torrential rains and flooding linked to the El Nino weather phenomenon.
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Somalia has one million displaced and a hundred dead according to the UN, Ethiopia 600,000 displaced and 57 dead according to the UN Humanitarian Coordination (OCHA), while in Kenya 460,000 people have been displaced and 136 people have been killed according to the Ministry of Interior.
A general view of a flooded area in Dolow, Somalia, after devastating flooding, November 25, 2023. © Hassan Ali Elmi, AFP
After a long drought
"It's a disastrous situation. Regions that were struggling to recover from the economic and environmental impacts of a prolonged drought are now doubly hit by floods," the NGO Action Against Hunger said in a statement on Wednesday, on the eve of the opening of the COP28 climate change conference.
In Somalia, since October, "more than two million people have been affected by torrential rains, flash floods and rivers, with an estimated one million people displaced from their homes," according to a statement from the UN and Somalia's disaster management agency.
The rainfall "is expected to flood at least 1.5 million hectares of farmland through December," the statement continued. The rains have already destroyed farms, damaged roads and bridges, hospitals and schools.
People carry their belongings on a road that collapsed due to flash floods near Garissa, Kenya, November 22, 2023. © Luis Tato, AFP
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'A breaking point'
In Somalia, a country of 17 million people plagued by poverty and an Islamist insurgency, some 1.5 million children under the age of five will face acute malnutrition between August 2023 and July 2024, according to the UN and Somalia's disaster management agency.
"Repeated climate shocks, widespread insecurity and endemic poverty have pushed Somalis to a breaking point," UN envoy George Conway said.
Herders help their goats cross a flooded area near a road destroyed by flash floods in Maalimin, Kenya, November 21, 2023. © Luis Tato, AFP
In eastern Somalia, one of the worst-affected regions, cholera cases have occurred. According to Save The Children on Thursday, 772 cases have been confirmed and at least 23 people have died.
The authorities in Mogadishu declared a state of emergency on 12 November in view of the scale of the disaster. The government said it had received 25,000 tonnes of grain from Russia, to be distributed urgently to those affected. Delivery of a further 25,000 tonnes is expected in December.
An elderly woman walks in the mud, near her home, submerged by flash floods, in Dolow, November 25, 2023. © Hassan Ali Elmi, AFP
The Horn of Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change and extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and intense.
The worst drought in four decades has hit the region after several disappointing rainy seasons that left millions of people in need and devastated crops and livestock.
El Niño, typically associated with rising temperatures, droughts in some parts of the world and heavy rains in others, is expected to last until April.
This weather phenomenon has already wreaked havoc in East Africa. From October 1997 to January 1998, massive floods fuelled by torrential rains killed more than 6,000 people in five countries in the region.
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