Heavy rainfall has intensified across large swathes of Eastern Africa in recent weeks, causing death, displacement, flooding, landslides and damage to homes, infrastructure and livelihoods. Many weather stations have recorded their highest amounts of rainfall in 40 years, according to IGAD. Since the beginning of the ‘long rains’ season in March 2020, over 1.3 million people have been affected by flooding in the sub-region, including at least 481,000 displaced, in: Burundi (around 50,000 affected, most of whom are displaced); Djibouti (over 110,000 affected in the capital in the last week of April); Ethiopia (219,000 affected, including nearly 107,000 displaced); Kenya (233,000 affected, including 116,000 displaced); Rwanda (thousands affected); Somalia (546,000 affected, including nearly 217,000 displaced); Tanzania (31,000 affected, including 13,500 displaced); and Uganda (hundreds of thousands affected).
With water levels rising in multiple locations across the region, rivers have burst their banks and lakes have overflowed. In Uganda, Lake Victoria’s water levels are the highest recorded since 1964—more than 50 years ago—according to authorities, causing displacement of communities close to the shoreline and creating challenges for the country’s hydropower infrastructure. Lake Albert is also at an historically high level and could breach its shoreline if rains continue, while Lake Kyoga has already breached its shoreline.
In Burundi, the Rusizi River burst its banks for the second time in two weeks on 30 April, affecting tens of thousands of people. In Somalia, torrential rains and riverine floods have inundated at least 27 districts, with Belet Weyne in Hiran region worst-hit. In western Kenya, the Nzoia, Lusumu, Yala, Kipsangui, Malakisi, Sio and Malaba rivers, and Lake Victoria, have caused displacement, while in Rwanda, intensified storms since 1 May have killed at least 70 people and severely impacted seven districts—Gakenke, Musanze, Nyabihu, Muganga, Ruhango, Rubavu and Ngororero. In Tanzania, a landslide washed away 50 houses in Arusha on 20 April.
The recent heavy rains come on the back of an above-average ‘short rains’ season in the region, driven by the strongest positive Indian Ocean Dipole since 2016, which affected at least 3.4 million people across Eastern Africa and caused water bodies across the region to swell. Beyond their immediate impact on families and communities, the heavy rains in the region have provided conditions conducive to the further breeding of desert locusts. Although control operations have reduced locust populations, another generation of breeding is underway, with new hopper bands and swarms expected to form in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia during May and June, and the potential for some swarms to reach Eritrea and Sudan in June.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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