At least 300 people have died and another 200,000 have been displaced following severe flooding in East Africa. A humanitarian crisis now ensues with the United Nations warning of cholera and malaria outbreaks.

Prior to the rains, the East African region had been experiencing one of its worst droughts since 2011. The drought was blamed on repeatedly low rainfall, with some areas having no rainfall at all for up to three seasons. The drought was so severe that South Africa had been projected to run out of water by May 11.

In 2017, over 3.5 million people reported to be at risk of death due to the famine the drought had caused. Most of these people are also refugees who fled their countries due to drought, among other reasons, and had flocked into the already over-populated refugee camps in Kenya. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found over 3,000 unregistered individuals in Kenya’s Dadaab Refugee Camp.

To the joy of many locals, in the beginning of March 2018, rain finally came. Unfortunately, what was thought to be a blessing quickly turned into a nightmare, as with the heavy rains came massive flooding and landslides, leaving scores dead and thousands displaced from their homes.

A railway swept away by floods.

Speaking to Citizen Truth, one man spoke of the devastation of losing his son to the floods. “I bid him goodbye as he went back to the city. Little did I know that was the last time I was to set my eye on him.” Muthoka’s son died after the car he was traveling in was swept away by a river in Eastern Kenya, killing all five occupants.  “Why can’t the government just build a damn bridge for us here!?” he further cursed.

Notably, the seasonal river has no bridge and locals have to wade across whenever it rains.

Other than the loss of lives, the flooding in East Africa also destroyed at least 21,500 acres of crops and killed more than 19,000 heads of livestock. Buildings, bridges and roads were also swept away, causing massive obstructions to transportation. As a result, farm produce and perishable goods spoiled while still in transit, bringing losses to farmers and businesses as well as causing food shortages in markets.

Vehicles submerged in flood water in Nairobi.
Photo: Courtesy

The heavy rains are also the blame for multiple landslides across East Africa. On May 6, at least 18 people died in a landslide in Rwanda. The landslide destroyed approximately 10,000 buildings and at least 5,000 hectares of crops. In April, a family of four was buried alive by a landslide in Central Kenya, with another landslide burying a six-year-old girl in the West Pokot County of Kenya.

The landslide in Rwanda which killed 18 people. Photo : Rwanda Red Cross

Currently, the flooding in East Africa is still wreaking havoc, with Kenya, Somalia and Rwanda being the worst hit. The biggest concern during these floods, however, is not damage to roads or loss of crops; it’s disease outbreak.

A report released by the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) revealed that 2,943 cholera cases have so far been reported, with 55 people having lost their lives to the disease already.

The International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) and the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), both humanitarian organizations in collaboration with local governments, have joined efforts in trying to evacuate the affected. The groups have also internationally appealed for aid in raising $5 million.

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