Kenya Flash Update #1: Floods | 30 October 2019
• Heavy rainfall since early October has affected more than 100,000 people, displaced thousands and caused at least 29 deaths in Kenya.
• The rains have driven flash floods, mudslides and landslides in various counties, with Wajir county amongst the hardest-hit.
• Floods have damaged infrastructure, including roads and bridges, and access to food, education and healthcare has been hampered.
• The heavy rains follow a period of prolonged drought which saw the number of severely food insecure people in Kenya rise to 3.1 million.
Heavy rainfall in many regions of Kenya since the start of the short rains season in early October has led to riverine and flash floods, rock falls, mudslides and landslides. More than 101,000 people have been affected, mainly in the north-eastern, central, and coastal regions, according to the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS). The KRCS has confirmed that at least 14,000 people have been displaced who were living in low-lying areas where rivers have burst their banks. At least 29 flood-related deaths have been registered, according to media reports quoting the Government, and the death toll and number of people displaced is expected to rise in the days ahead as further information is received and verified from affected areas.
Destruction and damage of key infrastructure -including roads, bridges, schools and health facilities– has been reported in multiple locations. At least 983 acres of farmland have reportedly been destroyed and 21,710 livestock washed away, according to the KRCS, severely impacting livelihoods, including in areas already facing challenges due to drought. At least 52 schools are inaccessible in Mandera and Wajir counties and some 14 health facilities cannot be reached in Mandera, Wajir and Marsabit. Many parts of Mombasa County have reported power outages caused by fallen electricity pylons or water-soaked transformers. Two bridges, including one linking Diani and Lungalunga at Kinondoni and the main bridge linking Tanzania and Kenya at Mihogoni trading centre, have been badly damaged. In Lodwar town and surrounding areas in Turkana County, nine out of 12 water boreholes were destroyed, impacting about 70,000 people.
In Wajir county, which has been particularly hard-hit, at least 43,000 people have been affected by flooding and at least 10 schools have been either closed due to inundation or are inaccessible for learners and teachers, according to the Kenya Initial Rapid Assessment (KIRA) conducted on 12 and 13 October. This will have an impact on students sitting their final primary and secondary level exams, which began last week. Roads linking various towns and settlements in the county are impassable, hampering the supply of essential food commodities and drugs for health facilities. There are reports of shortages of food and the price of available food has started to increase. Immediate priority needs in the area include the creation of diversion streams on Buna-Beramu Laga to reduce flooding into the town, emergency food assistance and non-food items to areas accessible by road and airlifting to inaccessible areas. Evacuation of low-lying households to safer ground and provision of water treatment chemicals are also urgent.
The rains -driven by the strong positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)- are expected to continue in the days and weeks ahead, with most parts of the country likely to experience above average rainfall until early December 2019, according to the Kenyan Meteorological Department.
The heavy rains and floods follow a prolonged period of drought in Kenya. Two consecutive seasons of poor rainfall and high land surface temperatures in many areas led to poor crop and livestock production and rapid deterioration of rangeland resources, according to the latest Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) report. Prior to the floods, a projected 3.1 million people were projected to face IPC Phases 3 (crisis) and 4 (emergency) in October. Although the rains may bring reprieve in some locations, in others there is a risk that they will damage cropping for the next season.