Almost 1 Million People in Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania, and Somalia Affected as Unprecedented Heavy Rains Continue to Wreak Havoc in Eastern Africa

UNICEF and other humanitarian agencies are stepping up life-saving emergency relief to children and affected communities.

09 May 2024

Nairobi, 9 May 2024 – Flooding and landslides in Eastern Africa are affecting almost a million people in Burundi, Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania. As unusually heavy rains have pounded the region, exacerbated by the 2023-24 El Niño climate phenomenon, hundreds of lives have been lost, highlighting the urgent need for humanitarian assistance.

Large numbers of people have been displaced and significant damage has been reported, including to homes, schools and infrastructure, as well as loss of crops and livestock. Many families have been forced to leave their homes, seeking refuge in makeshift shelters or evacuation centers. These are the individuals already most vulnerable, often living in informal settlements, close to riverbanks and without resilient water and sanitation. The situation has further exacerbated the lives of women and children, who already face high levels of discrimination in access to protection services and resources as well as vulnerability to violence, abuse and exploitation.

In Kenya, schools were closed for several weeks and due for reopening next week. The floods have also led to another cholera outbreak, with 48 cases reported. In Somalia, more than 160,000 people have been affected by the latest flooding, two-thirds of whom are children.

“The heavy rains and subsequent floods have disrupted lives, posing significant risks to children in the affected regions. Currently, safety and health, as well as access to food, clean water and vital services remain paramount. UNICEF is working closely with governments and local partners engaging with affected communities to identify the most urgent needs and ensure children are safe, able to continue learning and receiving psycho-social support as needed,” said UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Etleva Kadilli.

In flood-affected countries, UNICEF is working with government and civil society partners to provide life-saving emergency relief to children and other vulnerable groups in affected communities. Efforts include cash assistance, technical support, and provision of clean water, hygiene kits and medical supplies. UNICEF is also working with partners to identify needs that will emerge once the floodwaters have subsided. This includes:

  • Ensuring the continuity of safe learning where schools are destroyed, closed or unable to be accessed; as well as support rapid school assessments, recovery and rebuilding efforts to get children back to school as soon as possible. In addition, UNICEF will work with partners to promote accelerated and recovery learning to help children catch up.
  • Protecting children from forced family separation, increased exposure to violence, including sexual violence as well as keeping children safe from exploitative activities such as child labour and abuse. 
  • Ensuring access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, enhancing infection prevention and control measures against outbreak of infectious diseases, as well as strengthening the capacity of community health workers.
  • Enhancing access to lifesaving, high-impact, and quality health services that improve health status of affected communities.
  • Establishing and strengthening access to essential nutrition services, including support to government to ensure provision and access to quality diets, practices and services.
  • Strengthening risk communication and community engagement (RCCE) with local governments and partners in El Niño-impacted areas.
  • Ensuring the availability of services for gender-based violence (GBV) survivors including referrals, case management, psychosocial support and continuous efforts to identify and mitigate GBV risks in affected communities.

Over the past decade, climate change has intensified extreme weather in Eastern and Southern Africa, such as the prolonged drought across Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia from 2020 to 2023, followed by severe floods since late last year. In Eastern Africa, El Niño-induced heavy rains have intensified riverine and flash floods. In Southern Africa, El Niño has worsened dry weather conditions and caused lower rainfall, leading to states of emergency declared in Madagascar, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

To help children and vulnerable communities cope with changing climate patterns, UNICEF is working with regional and national partners to facilitate and implement climate-resilient solutions, empower children and young people, including those with disabilities, to have their voices heard and improve their adaptive capacity, as well as advocate for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, use of nature-based solutions and restructuring of international Climate Financing to be child-sensitive.

"Amid the escalating crises of droughts and floods wrought by El Niño, the vulnerability of communities across Eastern and Southern Africa intensifies, posing grave concerns about the future of children in the region," said Kadilli. "Children, young people and women, including those with disabilities are particularly at risk of violence, abuse and exploitation as humanitarian needs continue to increase. Thanks to the invaluable support from our donors and partners, UNICEF is actively engaged on the ground. Together with governments, civil society, and local communities, we are delivering lifesaving interventions and bracing for potential surges in humanitarian needs.

“However, the cost, scale and complexity of climate crises are only going to increase across the region.  Sustained and flexible support from donors and multilateral climate funds, including joint investments and other innovative financing with governments in climate prevention and preparedness programmes, will be vital in saving lives and strengthening the resilience of children repeatedly hit by climate emergencies.”

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Note to Editors:

Regional and country-based spokespeople are available for media interviews on the situation of children in the region, including on specific areas such as Nutrition; Water, Sanitation & Hygiene; Education; Health and more.

Multimedia content:

Floods in East and Southern Africa:  https://weshare.unicef.org/Package/2AM408UXWU9B

Social media:

@UNICEFKenya / @UNICEF_Burundi / @UNICEFTanzania / @UNICEFSomalia

Country-focused updates:

In Burundi, the government has reported that 306,000 individuals are at imminent risk due to ongoing floods and landslides, exacerbated by the El Niño phenomenon, which is generating above-average rainfall. Since the onset of the crisis, there are around 227,000 affected people and almost 95,000 displaced persons, and vital infrastructure, including nearly 20,000 homes and 200 classrooms, have been destroyed, severely affecting livelihoods with over 40,000 hectares of agricultural land devastated.

UNICEF, in collaboration with the government and partners, is actively engaged in a multi-faceted response - providing access to safe drinking water and sanitation services to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases; health interventions, including cholera prevention and nutrition support; ensuring children's learning remains uninterrupted by distributing tents and school materials as temporary measures and providing materials to restore schools; providing mental health care to violence survivors; and hygiene promotion to educate and equip communities to prevent future outbreaks.

Looking forward, UNICEF in Burundi is focusing its efforts on the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, aiming to not only address immediate needs but also to implement sustainable solutions that strengthen community resilience. Continuous engagement in sectors such as water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), nutrition, education, and child protection are prioritized to ensure comprehensive support and engagement of affected communities.

In Kenya, 41 out of 47 counties (87 per cent) are affected by heavy rainfall, flooding and landslides including the capital, Nairobi.  293, 661 people are affected by the floods, with 54, 837 households displaced across the country.

The floods have resulted in loss of livestock and thousands of acres of destroyed croplands. Schools, health facilities, water sources and major roads are damaged and violence against children and women is most likely to exacerbate as the support systems have been affected. Schools were closed due to the heavy rains and are expected to reopen next week. The heavy rains and floods have also resulted in the fourth wave of a cholera outbreak, with 48 cases reported.

UNICEF together with its partners are supporting the government’s response efforts with emergency cash transfers to the most affected families, provision of safe water, distribution of hygiene kits and play-based cholera information to affected communities to prevent the further spread of waterborne diseases. Tents and school kits are also being distributed to ensure learning can continue for children when schools reopen. Support is being provided and advocacy efforts are also ongoing.

Somalia - More than 160,000 people have been affected by the latest flooding, two-thirds of whom are children. In the worst affected regions of Hirshabelle, the Southwest State, and Jubaland, the floods have wrought damage to infrastructure and cut off delivery of much-needed humanitarian supplies to affected districts. Rising water levels are posing a serious threat to towns like Beletweyne and Jowhar in the Hirshabelle state.

UNICEF is working with the local governments and partners to provide water and sanitation services to an estimated 300,000 people. Lifesaving health services have so far been provided to 5,000 people and nutrition treatment provided to 2,000 children discovered with malnutrition out of the 19,000 children who have so far been screened. More than 90,000 people have been sensitized on disease prevention.

In Tanzania, 210,000 people have been affected by floods, 250 people have been injured and 161 people have lost their lives.  Severe floods and mudslides have affected Pwani Region (Rufiji and Kibiti). Over 200,000 acres of farmland have been affected. About 5,000 people are still hosted in temporary camps in Pwani Region. The recent Tropical Cyclone Hidaya has further exacerbated already the dire situation particularly in the southern regions. Roads, bridges, and infrastructure have been washed away affecting access to the main route between Dar es Salaam and the Southern regions of Pwani, Lindi and Mtwara regions. The ongoing floods have disrupted access to clean water and sanitation facilities, exacerbating the risk of disease outbreaks. The scale of the displacement and destruction calls for urgent humanitarian assistance and support.

UNICEF is working closely with the Government and partners at national and local levels to respond by distributing WASH supplies, including 35 water tanks, chlorine powder to treat large volumes of water, water quality monitoring kits, high performance tents, spray pumps, disinfectant, and over 3.7 million water purification tablets. Additionally, UNICEF installed water supply and temporary toilet facilities at the temporary camp where flood-affected people are sheltering in Kibiti district. UNICEF is also supporting risk communication efforts to reach and engage communities with prevention messages, and dissemination of information through community-based radios.

Early findings show that ten schools have been closed in Rufiji and Kibiti districts, affecting over 1,900 students. UNICEF provided education supplies including tents, science kits, Early Childhood Development kits, and recreation kits for continued learning in temporary shelters. Several health facilities have also closed in the two affected districts. UNICEF has supported the opening of temporary health posts to maintain crucial maternal and child healthcare services. Technical support has been provided to district health and immunization focal persons to ensure essential services, including immunization, continue.

 

Media contacts

Sasha Surandran
UNICEF Nairobi
Tel: +254 745 191 754
Louis Vigneault-Dubois
Chief of Communication
UNICEF Africa Services Unit
Tel: +27 79 495 5938

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