Storms, Floods across Africa Claim Many Lives

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 16, 2003 (ENS) - Flooding in eastern Africa has claimed the lives of more than 160 people and has displaced some 167,000 others. The worst affected area is the Gode Region in eastern Ethiopia where 69 villages are under water, and other villages are impossible to reach due to severe flooding. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has reported malaria outbreaks, measles and diarrhoea cases in flooded areas, and says the risk of acute respiratory infection and cholera is increasing.

Three UNICEF emergency drug kits were sent to the area and the regional head of the malaria department has also arrived in Gode. The region has 16,000 mosquito nets from regular UNICEF programs on hand and is likely to redirect some of these to prevent further increase in malaria incidences.

The ICRC is considering direct water and sanitation interventions in Gode, including water supply, water purification treatment, hygiene, sanitation, and cholera control.

Somalia has reported the displacement of several thousand people by the floods, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Some 55 people have lost their lives in Kenya, with the the Western, Eastern, North Eastern and Rift regions bearing the brunt of the flood waters. The rivers Turkwel and Kerio in the Turkana district of the Eastern region have burst their banks and washed away crops, farmlands and destroyed several irrigation systems.

Floods have smashed infrastructure, especially roads, local schools, electricity and water supplies. On Tuesday the roofs of Oltarakwai Primary School in Narok were blown off by winds, and the walls of seven classrooms and the administration block collapsed under a storm, local media reported.

The continuous rains have thwarted the efforts of the Ministry of Roads, Public Works and Housing to remove landslides blocking roads. The slides are making it difficult for aid agency vehicles to get through to stricken areas of the country.

rain

Workers repairing the Sasumua dam must stop work until the rain eases. (Photo courtesy IFRC)
One million people in the capital Nairobi are without water, after the Sasuma Dam, which supplies large sections of the city, was damaged two weeks ago. The dam is being repaired, UN officials say. The city’s main Kenyatta Hospital is almost paralysed as a result of severe water shortages, says the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC).

The government of Kenya has asked the Kenya Red Cross to take the lead in coordinating the delivery of all non-food humanitarian assistance to the flood affected people. The Red Cross launched an appeal for $US645,000 to meet these needs.

The Kenya Wildlife Service is warning all visitors to Amboseli National Park that the access road into the park through Ol Gulului Group Ranch and Kitirua gate is impassable due to the ongoing heavy rains. All other access routes are open, but 4x4 vehicles are essential.

The government of Kenya has sought the assistance of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in finding a long term solution to managing the effects of the persistent floods that strike the country.

A project aimed at reducing Kenya's vulnerability to floods was announced on May 9 by the United Nations following discussions with senior ministers and officials of the Kenyan government. UNEP will make available to the Kenyan government the skills and expertise of UNEP experts who plan to offer concrete advice on measures to improve the ability of Kenya's existing dam network to absorb and store flood waters.

They will also appraise whether the country needs new storage capacity to cope with future, extreme, weather events.

Kenyan experts this week predicted massive flooding in the lower parts of the River Tana following the filling up of the last of the seven dams acting as reservoirs for its waters.

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A Kenyan river rushes to the sea. (Photo courtesy IFRC)
The pilot assessment of Kenya's vulnerability to natural events will identify areas of the country at risk and help the government prioritize future actions in areas such as land use, forestry, planning of settlements, water resources and the effective development and deployment of early warning systems. UNEP plans to draw on the extensive expertise of UN-Habitat and its work on vulnerability in cities.

The island nation of Madagascar is still reeling from the effects of tropical cyclone Manou which slammed into the island's east coast last Friday. The storm caused 68 deaths, 19 people are missing, 86 people have been injured, and some 110,300 others have been affected, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. About 24,500 houses have been destroyed, and the number of homeless people is estimated at 47,500.

In Namibia on the southwest coast of Africa, the Zambezi River burst its banks on Monday, submerging 20 villages in the Caprivi region. Grazing areas have been flooded. Livestock are drowning and are prone to crocodiles' attack. Some huts have been submerged and abandoned.

On Tuesday, the Namibian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said that according to the government's assessment, floods have affected some 5,000 people and 13 schools have been closed. Due to floods, roads have become impassable rendering difficult the access to some communities. Some areas are not accessible by motor-boat due to high grass and bushes, officials said.

Most communities in the affected region depend on government food supplies earmarked for drought relief, and their food is now gone.