Torrential rains over the past month have led to severe flooding across parts of East Africa, killing 100 in Kenya and leaving more than 220 000 people displaced. The Kenyan Red Cross reported on Thursday that they are currently responding to calls for help from residents who have been stranded as a result of the disaster. The Kenyan Defence Force has also deployed navy divers, succeeding in rescuing over one thousand people, but it is clear that more aid is still greatly needed.
Major river banks in both Kenya and Somalia have burst, sending dirty water throughout the villages and towns. Infrastructure in most of these areas had not been strong enough to withstand the floods, and as a result, thousands of houses, schools, and business alike have been swept away. Roads have been forced to remain closed, leaving people without access to food, water, or healthcare.
At a press conference on Tuesday Kenyan Red Cross Secretary General Abbas Gullet declared that the floods have destroyed over 21 000 acres of crops, and that tens of thousands of animals have been swept away. Agriculture, one of the pillars of the Kenyan economy, over the past few years, has been threatened by a severe drought. Now, inversely, as a result of the floods, farmers have to start from scratch as their livelihoods have been taken away from them. At a national level, the impact of this flood on Kenya’s economy will be massive. Moreover, the disastrous consequences of the floods do not end here, as there are growing fears that there will soon be an outbreak of disease, as floodwaters have contaminated drinking water in the affected regions. Cholera and malaria, which are already present in five of the flood-affected countries, are almost certainly going to spread as a result. Victor Moses, the director for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Somalia, stated that the floods were a “ticking time bomb for disease outbreaks like cholera and malaria.”
To make matters worse, Kenya and Somalia are both home to refugee camps that are situated on low-lying areas of land. Dadaab, located in Kenya, is home to a quarter million people, making it one of the biggest camps in the world. Children who play in the waters have exposed themselves to disease, and the makeshift houses have been submerged with water. The flooding prevents the provision of aid to these refugees, restricting them from their only means of survival.
The floods highlight the unpreparedness of the government in dealing with natural disasters. The three years of drought brought food insecurity and famine, leading to three million Kenyans relying on aid to survive. The current floods are likely to end with similar outcomes, with hundreds of thousands needing help to get back on their feet.
There is a pressing need for the governments of countries to look forward and prepare themselves and their people for any environmental impacts that are foreseeably going to worsen. Without infrastructure that can withstand extreme weather events, the country would need to go into recovery mode every time an event like this occurs. Not only does this devastate the population, causing sickness and death, but it negatively impacts the economy. By looking forward and building for the future, both the government and NGOs will be better able to deal with natural disasters, as we see climate change continuing to affect countries worldwide.