Description of the disaster
On September 2nd, 2019, the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) issued a seasonal weather forecast for October – November – December (OND) 2019 short rains season which indicated a high probability for enhanced rainfall over the Western, North-western and Central parts of Kenya, while the Eastern sector had a high probability for normal rainfall. A much earlier onset was observed than had been predicted, particularly in the Northern, Eastern, Coastal, Central and Western parts of the country which started experiencing heavy rains from early October as opposed to 2nd to 3rd weeks or October as had been predicted. As per the weather predictions, the areas have seen highly enhanced rainfall since the start of October 2019. The heaviest rains with the highest intensity were received on 16/17 October with Mombasa, Matunga and Marine meteorological stations recording 100mm of rainfall as seen in Figure 1 below:
The KMD have since shared further information and explanation to the heavy and early onset of the rainfall. Scientific evidence has shown that Kenya’s OND seasonal rainfall is highly influenced by El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD). A positive IOD and El Nino result in enhanced rainfall in Kenya while a negative IOD and La Nina result in depressed rainfall. The heavy rains have been attributed to a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) index of +2.15°C (as of 12th October 2019).
This is the highest ever recorded in a season with neutral ENSO and a positive IOD. It is notably higher than was observed in 1961 (+1.0°C) which resulted in much higher rainfall and widespread flooding over much of the Country.
Figure 2 shows the rainfall observed in the OND season of 1961 (blue bars) as compared to the long-term mean (Orange bars) which shows the effect of the positive IOD and subsequently results in high possibility of heavy rains over the coming months than in 1961.
Based on the state of the Ocean and the early onset KMD has been issuing heavy rainfall advisories with the most recent being issued on the 23rd of October, 20191. The advisory indicated that heavy rainfall was expected over North East, South East, the Coastal Regions of Kenya, Western and Central regions including Nairobi Area. The 10-day dekad forecasts from the IGAD Climate Prediction & Application Center projected heavy rains for the period 21 to 31 October 2019. Additionally, with the enhanced rainfall expected in November and December, the frequency of heavy rain days is expected to increase over most parts of the Country Moyale, in Marsabit county as well as Turkana, Wajir and Mandera counties received very heavy rainfall and have remained cut off from access by humanitarian actors including the KRCS for two (2) weeks with a number of roads remaining impassable following collapse of bridges and roads cut off. This inaccessibility has affected community access to food from the markets which could negatively impact their food security status. There is also a risk of outbreak of diseases due to contamination of water sources and vector-breeding.
In parts of the Rift valley, West Kenya and Central highlands, heavy rains have also been experienced with varying levels of impacts including landslides and mud slides as reported by Kenya Red Cross branch staff and volunteers. In Elgeyo Marakwet County, a family of 4 lost their lives after their house was swept by a landslide in Turung village, Marakwet East. In Murang’a County, two landslides were reported which resulted in damage to houses and farms, but no injuries or deaths were reported.
Based on data from Kenya Red Cross staff and volunteers a total of 14,083HHs (approx. 84,367 people) have been affected, 21 deaths reported with 2 others injured. The number of displaced households is currently estimated at 6,000HHs. In addition, 531 acres of farmland have been destroyed and 21,675 livestock have been washed away. Assessments are continuously ongoing with a possibility of a significant increase in the number of affected populations.
The most affected counties are; Marsabit, Wajir, Mandera, Turkana, Elgeyo Marakwet, Kitui, Meru, Kajiado, Kwale, Nandi, Mombasa, Murang’a and Busia. It is important to note that flood prone counties in Kenya are those in western parts of Kenya as well as the coastal region. It is projected that as the rainfall intensifies counties in these regions will experience flooding and population displacements.