YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – Catholic charities in East Africa are struggling to deal with the severe floods that have affected over 2.5 million people in the region.
The flooding has affected Kenya, South Sudan, and Somalia, and was caused by unusually heavy rains that have hit the countries since July.
Thousands have been displaced, and several people have been killed in the ongoing disaster.
“A family of four was killed after their house was swept by a landslide in Turung village, Marakwet East. A man, identified as Titus Kiptoo, his wife Lorna Cheserek and their two children were asleep in their house when the incident happened,” said Kenyan Father George Okoth, the Diocesan Caritas Director of the Diocese of Eldoret.
The priest also said he sees peacebuilding as another sustainable solution that could lessen the incidence of floods in the future.
“We need to undertake peacebuilding and conflict resolution initiatives to mitigate cattle rustling, these frequent ethnic clashes which have led displacement of communities and settlement in landslide prone areas. We also need to engage communities on disaster management as some of them are resistant to move from landslide prone areas,” he told Crux.
Isacko Jirma Molu, the Diocesan Caritas Director in Marsabit in Kenya told Crux that the flooding has severely affected the region.
“Two people have died. Livelihoods, properties of unknown value, livestock deaths… and it further complicated the drought situation that Marsabit diocese was addressing at the time. About 500 households have been displaced and close to 5,000 goats and sheep dead,” he said.
Molu said Caritas Marsabit was not in position “to respond to the distress calls from the affected population due to lack of funds, but we are closely with the county government and other actors to roll out the Kenya Initial Rapid Assessment which we are hopeful will provide more data for planning.”
In the Diocese of Garissa, four children were drowned in the town of Eldas.
The International Rescue Committee said many people had been reeling from an earlier period of severe drought. The rains in parts of Somalia, South Sudan and Kenya are expected to continue through November.
In South Sudan, President Salva Kiir this week declared a state of emergency in 27 counties because of the flooding. The United Nations has said entire communities in some areas have been submerged, disease is spreading and access to health services is limited.
“The impact of the floods on the livelihoods of our people is that farms are completely washed out. So, there is a serious crop failure and their houses and homesteads are completely submerged under water,” said Hussein Maar Nyuot, the country’s Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Preparedness.
People in many of the areas already faced acute malnutrition as South Sudan emerges from a five-year civil war.
“I am extremely concerned about the humanitarian consequences of the floods,” said Alain Noudehou, the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator in the country.
The flooding in Somalia, which has caused several deaths, has displaced more than 180,000 people and destroyed crops, the aid group Action Against Hunger said. It estimated that the tropical storm would bring another meter of water to parts of the region.
“For many people, this is the worst flooding in a lifetime,” the group’s regional director Hajir Maalim told the Associated Press, adding that food is no longer reaching many people with roads and bridges submerged.
Mohamud Mohamed Hassan, the Country Director for Save the Children, said “resources are being stretched to their limits” in the country.
“The current needs are huge and we’re in danger of being overwhelmed if donors don’t step up urgently. Right now, our main concern is the potential health crisis, including cholera and malaria outbreaks, which are devastating diseases for children,” Hassan said.
Lucy Espila – Research, Communications and Advocacy Program officer at Caritas Kenya – underscored the need for communities to be educated in community risk management.
“Communities should be taken through community managed disaster risk reduction concepts to enable local administration to conduct hazard vulnerability and capacity assessments and to document early warning Signs of disasters and coping strategies,” she told Crux.
“This information may be used by future generations. There is also a need for us to plant more trees which will serve as water catchment areas,” she said.
Experts called the floods a worrying sign of how climate change is affecting already vulnerable communities.
“The floods are getting worse and they’re happening more frequently,” Nhial Tiitmamer, director of the environmental and natural resources program at the Sudd Institute, a South Sudanese think tank, told the Associated Press.
The floods there are the heaviest in six years in terms of the depth and the extent of the area affected, he said.
This article incorporated material from the Associated Press.
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