Regional overview of flooding in the Horn of Africa
As many communities in the Horn of Africa continue to suffer from the effects of drought and livelihood loss, a number of locations throughout the region have been affected by intense flooding. Ethiopia , Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, and Eritrea have all been affected by flash and river floods since late July/early August, albeit to varying degrees. The natural, cross-border lay-out of river systems, lakes and the man made system of dams add a regional dimension to the ongoing crisis affecting some of the most vulnerable communities on the continent.
The most extreme flooding has occurred in Ethiopia , which has experienced two types of floods: flash floods and river floods. Heavy rainfall has saturated the soil particularly in the western and central highlands as well as the north-western parts of the country resulting in overflowing rivers and flash floods in Dire Dawa, SNNPR2, Amhara, Oromiya, Gambella, Tigray, Somali, and Affar regions. To date, only the regions of Harari and Beneshangul-Gumuz remain unaffected
As of 27th August, 639 people were confirmed dead country wide due to the flooding, and an overall number of 199,9003 are estimated to have been affected of which at least 35,000 are displaced.
The flooding in Dire Dawa has left at least 254 people dead while 244 were still officially missing as of 21st August. All displaced have been registered by the authorities and the distribution of relief items has been ongoing since 14th August.
Various task forces have been set up in Dire Dawa including major Government bureaus and ministries, WFP, OCHA, UNICEF, and NGOs. An appeal document to the City Council that addresses the immediate needs of some 9000 displaced in Dire Dawa town and 7,500 people around the city has been drafted. The displaced in Dire Dawa are being sheltered in six schools, but with the new school term approaching in September, the need for shelter assistance is a key priority. In addition, assistance to prevent the outbreak and spread of disease has been identified for urgent attention.
16th August the Government reported 364 dead and 6-10,000 displaced in South Omo. Nearly 3,000 livestock have also perished. A search and rescue operation has been ongoing since 15th August in South Omo and 2,228 people have been rescued so far. The federal Ethiopian Government decla red emergency status in South Omo as of 18th August, and the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Agency (DPPA) provided food and non-food assistance via air drop. Supplies have reportedly also reached the region via road. However, limited access to the flood affected areas and poor weather conditions are major constraints to the operations. Immediate needs for the response include additional support to the search and rescue operations, additional food and non-food items, disease surveillance and prevention, and concerted information campaigns.
Other regions in Ethiopia have also been severely affected but with less fatal consequences. However, reports suggest considerable loss of vital live-stock and farming land, for instance in Libokemkem and Fogera woredas in the South Gondar Zone where crops on 5371 hectares of land were washed away by the flooding. There are concerns that the Giba dam as the only dam on the Omo River may also burst and further flood the surrounding areas. The Koka Dam on the Awash River is the main source of hydro-electric power for Addis Ababa and its lake is already at the upper limits. If water is released from the dam, there could be extensive flooding which would engulf nearby sugar plantations and a government sugar factory. Economic losses, already high, would escalate dramatically.
A joint Government and humanitarian partners Flash Appeal for the disaster was issued 25th August, asking USD 27 million in emergency relief. The appeal will be updated at a later stage, as flooding is expected to continue through September and 500,000 people live in flood-prone areas of the country. All the major rivers in the region have significantly swollen and the volume of water in the five dams in the country is reaching its maximum. The risk of additional flooding with severe consequences is therefore high.
In Marsabit District of Kenya, four people were confirmed dead on 10th August following flash floods. More than 2,000 people have been displaced and at least 600 livestock killed. According to the Kenya Meteorological Department, the flash floods were caused by a southward movement of the inter-tropical convergence zone, causing the heavy rains that have pounded southern Ethiopia to fall around Marsabit and Lake Turkana in northern Kenya.
Lake Turkana in northern Kenya is at risk of inundation, as it can not absorb the excess rain water flowing through Ethiopian rivers. This has raised fears of flooding in Turkana District in Kenya (overflowing of Lake Turkana into South Omo in Ethiopia was reported on 23rd August). An unspecified number of bodies were reported to have been discovered near the shores of Lake Turkana on the Kenya-Ethiopian border, as a result of the devastating flooding of the River Omo in Ethiopia . Closer monitoring is urgently required in Turkana to assess flood water threats.
Kenyan Red Cross (KRC) report that they responded with some food and non-food items to the flash floods 10 August. KRC is now partnering with other agencies to produce a joint contingency plan in anticipation of more floods. However, humanitarian work is hampered by ongoing clan fighting in the drought and flood stricken region.
Rainfall in Sudan since the beginning of August has caused the river Nile to overflow, resulting in extensive flooding. An estimated 24,000 people have been affected, with the most severe damage in the north, west, and centre of the country. At least 10,000 homes and tens of thousands of square kilometres of farmland have been damaged.
There is an unprecedented volume of water in the Blue Nile system and all areas upstream of Khartoum are subject to flooding due to the Blue Nile overflowing its banks. The agricultural land adjacent to the river for its entire length has been inundated. In some places only 50 metres from the normal channel is inundated, in other places the river has spread out to over 1 km in width. Approximately 2-5 per cent of the housing in the towns along the river are threatened by rising waters or already inundated. The river between Khartoum and Wad Medani is least affected. The area from Wad Medani to Ed Damazin is most affected, particularly the area around Senga. The area immediately below Ed Damazin is also severely affected.
The Ministry of Irrigation reported that the highest ever level of the Blue Nile at Khartoum measuring station, 16.96 metres, was recorded 23 August. Flooding will occur in Blue Nile suburbs including Garden City, Khartoum Centre etc, if the level exceeds 17.14 metres.
In Eastern Sudan, flooding in the Tokar area is understood to be severe and agencies have only just been granted access for assessment and response purposes. From early August, floods were reported in Tokar as water covered all sides of the town periphery except the North West area. Access to the area was limited as 3-4 km of the road from Port Sudan into Tokar was flooded.
The Government is reported to have provided tents for those who have lost their homes due to flooding, but little or no food or medicines have been provided. There is increased concern of further outbreak of diseases such as cholera.
The Government has called on the humanitarian community to assist in response efforts and delivering relief to affected populations in Khartoum, Sinar, Amri, and North Kordufan.
Heavy rain over the Ethiopian highlands has resulted in rising river levels of both the Shabelle and Juba rivers in Somalia and instances of localised flooding due to weak embankments and water overflow. According to available information, the floods are more severe along the Shabelle river although concerns also exist for communities along the Juba. On August 29th, the Shebelle river overflowed and caused substantial flooding in Mogadishu. An immediate response to the humanitarian needs is already underway amid warnings of further flooding in the region.
According to media reports, a girl in the town of Jowhar in Middle Shabelle died 25th August after the river bursts its banks, but details of the severity and magnitude of the flooding remain unclear. A rapid assessment by UN and international organisations is underway in Jowhar which will provide more details. So far, the damage caused by the flooding along both rivers has impacted primarily on farmland and crops although some villages are reported surrounded by water in Jowhar, while in Jilib and Jamame districts some roads have become impassable.
The new administration of the Islamic Courts has been mobilising local communities to reinforce broken embankments with sandbags made available by UNICEF and international NGOs. The gates of the China Canal were also opened to stem off some of the water flow.
The situation is being closely monitored by partners in the field while at Nairobi level the flood Working Group will be revived - chaired by FAO/SWALIM and OCHA - to look into forecasts for possible continued threat, required response, and preparedness measures.
Since the beginning of August, heavy rains in the eastern part of Uganda have caused the rivers Ngenge and Atari to burst their banks resulting in 3 fatalities and destruction of houses, property, death of livestock, and inundation of farmland. 1,680 displaced people are currently being accommodated in churches and schools in the area, while others have been accommodated by friends and families.
Uganda Red Cross, Action Aid International, and the local leader's council have all carried out assessments of the situation and humanitarian actors are preparing the response in collaboration with the Ugandan Government.
There is limited information available of the impact of the current climatic situation in Eritrea. However, a the Ministry of Information web site reported that as a result of heavy rains the homes of about 1,000 town residents in Tessenei in the Gash-Barka region were destroyed on 11th August and the affected population is being sheltered in schools and other places. The rains have reportedly also caused damage to electric poles and trees in the town. According to reports posted on the web site, residents in different location said they had witnessed flash floods as a result of the heaviest rains recorded in 11 years. Affected people are being supported with blankets and household utensils.
Following the flood, the RC/HC wrote to the Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare to offer assistance to the Government of Eritrea, and to set up a joint Government-UN assessment mission to address the needs of affected populations. However, no reply has yet been received from the Ministry. In the meantime, UNICEF has provided emergency relief items such as tarpaulins, blankets, plastic sheets, mosquito nets, water bladder, etc. to the flood-affected population.
According to the current Northeast Africa Precipitation Forecast from FEWSNET, there is a tilt in the odds favouring above average rainfall over western and southern Sudan, and western and south western Ethiopia. At the same time, there are predictions of below average rainfall locally over central Sudan and portions of northern Eritrea.
Continued high levels of precipitation in and around the Ethiopian highlands will aggravate the situation in the flood plains of Ethiopia, Somalia , and Kenya. There is a need for continued monitoring of the rainfall levels and of river and lake levels in order to provide early warning to communities that could be affected. The region is just coming out of one of the most severe droughts in recent history and with the substantial environmental degradation common to many of the affected areas, the loss of lives, livelihoods and infrastructure that is caused by the floods will have critical humanitarian implications. The aftermath of floods is also of key concern especially given the emergence of a major epidemic of Acute Watery Diarrhea in Ethiopia, a disease that is water borne and is aggravated in situations of poor sanitation and close confinement such as is the case with the flood displaced populations. All flood affected areas will need vigilant surveillance to minimize the spread of disease that accompany flood situations.
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(1) The information in this document is consolidated from reports and field information fro m a variety of sources including OCHA field staff, UN agencies, Government partners, NGOs, and news agencies.
(2) Ethiopia's Southern Nation and Nationalities Peoples' Region.
(3) The affected number of population includes 15% contingency.
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