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Flooding kills 253 in Kenya, Somalia, displace 1.3 million

By Edith Mutethya in Nairobi, Kenya | | Updated: 2020-05-14 19:48
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Residents wade through the waters that flooded their home in Budalangi in western Kenya on Sunday. Heavy rainfall was compounded by backflow from Lake Victoria. THOMAS MUKOYA/REUTERS

At least 237 people have lost their lives and 800,000 people were displaced due to floods across Kenya, as 16 others died and over 500,000 were displaced in Somalia floods since the onset of rains in April.

Speaking ata press conference on Wednesday, Eugene Wamalwa, the Kenyan cabinet Secretary forDevolution, appealed to Kenyans living in flood and landslide-prone areas to relocate to safer ground, noting that the situation is expected to worsen in the coming weeks, as the meteorological department projects rains to continue into June.

"The floods and rising water levels in all our lakes and rivers is unprecedented and the devastation is overwhelming," he said.

Wamalwa said the last time Lake Victoria reached current levels was in the 1950s, while Lake Naivasha last reached current levels in 1961.

He said Garissa and Mandera counties in the northern region, as well as the Tana River in the coastal region are the most affected by the floods.

Wamalwa said government officials have been visiting the most affected areas to assess the situation and have been supplying the victims with food, clean water and other basic needs, even as they try to come up with long-term mitigation measures.

On Wednesday, the Kenya Red Cross,in partnership with the national and county governments, evacuated families that were marooned by floodwaters in Konoramadha village and Abawata farms in Madogo, Tana River County. The families had been marooned for over six days.

In Somalia, the flooding has been caused by the sharp rise in the level of the Shabelle River due to heavy rains in the country and the Ethiopian highlands, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

At least 27 districts in Somalia are flooded, with the worst-hit area being Belet Weyne in the Hiraan region, where riverine flooding has displaced more than 115,000 people, according to the district flood task force.

Infrastructure alsohas been damaged, homes and farmland inundated. The risk of illness and disease, including acute watery diarrhea and cholera,alsohas increased.

On May 9, 90 new cases of acute watery diarrhea were reported in Doolow in Jubaland, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

The UN body said moderate-to-high flood risk is likely to persist through mid-May, threatening urban populations and people living near rivers and other low-lying areas.

The flood menace in Kenya and Somaliaadds to the coronavirus pandemic and desert locust invasion that are also wreaking havoc in the two countries.

So far Somalia has recorded 1,219 coronaviruscases and 52 deaths, whileKenya has recorded 737 cases and 40 deaths.

The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization on Wednesday said the current desert locust invasion situation remains extremely alarming in East Africa, where it is an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods, since it coincides with the current growing season.

The UN agency said new swarms from current breeding will form from mid-June onwards, coinciding with the start of the harvest.

During the past week, mature swarms in Kenya moved further north in the northwestern counties of Marsabit and Turkana to lay eggs. So far, only some are hatching and a few hopper bands have been detected.

In central Somalia, mature adults are present near the Ethiopia border in the Galguduud region. Control operations are ongoing in the two countries, as well as other affected nations in the region.

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