Flood victims in East Africa face grim prospect of rains continuing well into 2007 – UN

Flood victims in East Africa face grim prospect of rains continuing well into 2007 – UN

Somalia is already facing its worst floods in recent history, the numbers of those affected in Kenya are soaring, and hundreds of thousands of people throughout the Horn of Africa face the grim prospect of flooding problems continuing well into the next year, according to the latest United Nations update issued today.

Current estimates put the number of affected people at 361,000 in Ethiopia’s Somali Region and 330,000 in Somalia although other estimates go as high as 900,000, while the number in Kenya has risen from up to 500,000 to over 700,000, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported.

OCHA noted that water temperatures in the Indian Ocean resulting from El Niño, the periodic phenomenon of surface warming that can lead to torrential rains and floods in some parts of the world and droughts and forest fires in others, were conducive to continued heavy rains in the Horn of Africa, indicating flooding could continue well into 2007.

The confirmed death toll in the three countries stands at 230 from flooding and related causes, such as water-borne diseases.

UN agencies are already airlifting in hundreds of tons of supplies for hundreds of thousands of flood victims in all affected countries. There are reports of massive loss of crops and livestock among the region’s agro-pastoralists who are already stretched to the limit due to a prolonged drought.

The main constraint on aid is access, with many roads washed out or blocked by landslides. Airlifts of food and other relief items as well as of humanitarian personnel are crucial at this point and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) last week launched a regional air operation with fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.

Humanitarian agencies fear that malaria and water-borne diseases such as acute diarrhoea will spread through flood-affected areas, carried by contaminated waters often infected by dead livestock and over-flowing latrines. Attacks by crocodiles and snakes are among the other hazards faced by flood victims.