Floods ravage Northern Kenya as heavy rainfall hits the region

Residents move to safety after floods ravaged their homes. The heavy rains being experience in ASAL areas are causing destruction of property and infrastructure. PHOTO/Courtesy.
  • Over 1,000 livestock and 221 acres of agricultural farmland have been lost as of November 5.
  • According to OCHA, nearly 10,230 households have been affected since the beginning of the rainy season this year.
  • WHO had previously strategically positioned critical medical resources in 14 high-risk counties in ASAL areas.

In a climate event attributed to the El Nino phenomenon, Northern Kenya is currently grappling with intense rainfall, leading to widespread devastation in several counties.

According to a report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), nearly 6,000 households have been displaced, and 17 people have died in the region.

Additionally, over 1,000 livestock and 221 acres of agricultural farmland have been lost as of November 5.

The enhanced rains are a result of El Nino conditions and a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), which are currently present in the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean, according to the Kenya Meteorological Department.

The Kenya Meteorological Department has issued a forecast predicting continuous rainfall throughout most of the country for the coming week, with isolated storms expected to persist until December 2023.

In response to this crisis, the international non-governmental organization Acted, with a three-fold focus on humanitarian, environmental and development aid, has been actively engaged in providing support to people in difficult-to-reach regions.

Crucial rainfall season background

Kenya last experienced El Nino in 1997, when the rains began in May and lasted till February 1998, with the central region being one of the worst hit areas.

Kenya has a history of experiencing significant flooding, causing loss of lives, increased disease outbreaks, displacement, and widespread destruction of property and infrastructure.

Dr. Hussen Seid, a Climate Modelling expert at IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC), terms El Nino as a climate phenomenon characterized by the periodic warming of sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean and affects weather patterns worldwide.

Dr. Hussein Seid (left), Climate Modelling Expert at ICPAC and IGAD Climate Prediction and Application Centre Director Dr. Gueid Artan (right). PHOTO/Courtesy.

October to December constitutes great significance as a key rainfall season, especially in the equatorial regions of the Greater Horn of Africa.

During this time, these areas typically receive between 20-70% of their annual total rainfall, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs), therefore, support recovery from below-average rainfall seasons but are more prone to high flooding risk.

Given the impact of past flooding effects in 1997/98, 2016 and 2019, comprehensive preparedness and response strategies are urgently needed to mitigate the risks arising from these fluctuating weather conditions and especially in the northern parts of the country.

Situation overview

According to OCHA, nearly 10,230 households (61,380 people) have been affected since the beginning of the rainy season this year.

Heavy rains, flash floods and increasing river levels have caused fatalities, infrastructure damage and restricted access to various roads in various regions.

Areas of particular concern in Kenya include Mandera, Garissa, Wajir and Tana River and parts of the upper eastern areas of Kenya.

On November 5, the Tana and Athi Development Authority (TARDA) issued a statement warning that recent heavy rains have caused water levels to rise, posing a significant risk to the safety of communities in low-lying areas, especially in Kitui, Garissa and Tana River counties urging the communities to move to higher ground for safety.

“The Kenya MET has issued a heavy rainfall advisory giving a moderate probability of occurrence certainty of 33% to 66% that will be experienced into the weekend of 4-5 November, TARDA is therefore issuing a vital advisory to the counties and communities under its jurisdiction…,” read part of the public notice posted on the authority’s X page.

The weatherman predicts continuous rainfall in the country, with isolated storms expected to persist until December. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Additionally, major roads and bridges in Mandera, Wajir and Samburu counties have been forced to close due to deluge.

Government’s say

On August 22, 2023, ICPAC announced that the October to December 2023 climate forecast shows high chances of wetter-than-usual conditions.

The Kenya national government and other bodies, such as the Kenya Roads Board and County governments, began to mobilize strategies and mitigation efforts for the crisis.

In a stakeholders’ meeting chaired by Deputy President Hon. Rigathi Gachagua, the national government estimated that it needed KSh10 billion to manage the impact of the El Nino, especially in ASAL areas.

“We must know that our work as the government is to ensure no Kenyan dies as a result of the El Nino rains and failing to plan is planning to fail,” said the DP.

Ann Waiguru, the chairperson of the Council of Governors, said that they aimed to set aside KSh15 billion to help displaced households with basic needs.

Further, military aid was deployed to help unclog drainage systems and aid in the distribution of national exams and food to the hit areas.

Humanitarian aid

While local and national governments are working to help mitigate the El Nino crisis, different international humanitarian bodies dedicated to helping people in difficult regions have offered to help.

Marsabit Governor, Mohamud Ali donates food and other supplies to Loglogo flood victims in Marsabit recently. PHOTO/Courtesy.

ACTED has been present in Kenya since 2007 to meet the humanitarian and development needs of communities affected by natural calamities and has a coordination office in Nairobi and operational bases in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands.

  • United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

OCHA has partnered with the Kenya Red Cross Society and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) to aid flood victims in Northern Kenya.

By November 8, 43 refugee families in Turkana County received emergency shelter support, while 8 others in Samburu County marooned by floods were rescued. In the same area, 15 flood-affected households were relocated to safer areas.

In Marsabit County, flood-affected residents received humanitarian aid, including food, blankets and other household materials from the local government, Kenya Red Cross Society, and the World Food Programme (WFP).

  • World Health Organization (WHO)

The Ministry of Health, in partnership with WHO Kenya, are actively conducting assessments and delivering essential aid to the affected communities.

WHO had previously strategically positioned critical medical resources in 14 high-risk counties in ASAL areas.

The resources included emergency medical kits, cholera kits, sturdy tents and beds, as well as therapeutic foods and milk for children.

  • International Rescue Committee (IRC)

In Kenya and Somalia, IRC is conducting awareness-raising campaigns to prevent disease outbreaks, delivering critical supplies, including hygiene kits, building infrastructure in anticipation of the floods, and deploying mobile health units to provide essential health services.

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IRC predicts that the impact of the 2023 floods could leave more than 2 million people in need of some form of direct assistance.

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Ms. Njoroge holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and Journalism from Moi University. She is a Digital Human-Interest Writer, particularly in the realms of Gender, Book Reviews, Environment and Climate Change. Email: wangarinjoroge213@gmail.com


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