Kenya

Kenya: Heavy rains to affect hundreds of thousands

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NAIROBI, 14 November 2008 (IRIN) - At least 300,000 people will require humanitarian aid in the next three months due to flash flooding and landslides, as well as continuing conflict, the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) warned.

"The number is a projection for November, December and January, which are expected to be severe," Titus Mung'ou, the KRCS public relations officer, told IRIN on 13 November.

According to the KRCS, almost KSh586 million (about US$7.8 million) would be required for non-food items, healthcare and improved water and sanitation services during this period.

"All the provinces in the country have been affected," Mung'ou said.

Mandera region in the north-east was worst hit. "Drought had already made the people vulnerable in the past, then there were clan clashes and floods," he said. Recent clashes between the Garre and Murule have led to the deaths of about 20 people.

Flooding in the area has displaced thousands and inundated hundreds of hectares of farmland in the arid area. "There is a complex humanitarian emergency in Mandera," he said.

Distribution problems

In neighbouring Garissa, residents now rely on donkey carts for transport, said a local leader, Hajir Siyat. "We have been cut off ... food prices have almost doubled. Hundreds of passengers are stranded."

Distribution of relief food has also been affected in the districts of Isiolo and Samburu. Isiolo District Commissioner, Waweru Kimani, said it might be necessary to airlift aid as some of the roads were impassable.

Waterborne diseases are also on the rise. According to KRCS, some 350 patients have been treated for diarrhoea-related illnesses at Mandera District Hospital.

"This is because of the contamination of water in the shallow wells after floods submerged hundreds of latrines," Mung'ou said. The predominant use of "bucket" latrines was also to blame.

Cases of typhoid have also increased in the remote areas of Isiolo, Ali Wario, a public health officer, said. Water purification and hygiene campaigns were being conducted.

In the western district of Trans Nzoia, 728 hectares of farmland are under water. At least 1,700 people have been affected.

More than 500 families were also displaced in the flood-prone area of Budalangi after a dyke along River Nzoia collapsed. In Budalangi South, 19 villages were flooded, said KRCS.

Landslides

Farms along the River Tana in the coastal region have also been affected after the river breached its banks.

In some hilly areas, the heavy rains have led to landslides. In the northwestern district of Pokot Central, at least 11 people, including eight school-children, died in a landslide on 8 November.

Mudslides have also been reported in Nandi South and Tinderet, where 367 households were affected and a bridge washed away. Parts of Murang'a, in the Central highlands, also experienced mudslides.

According to the Kenya Meteorological Department, the heavy rains were caused by above-average temperatures in the Indian Ocean.

"The warming in October triggered these [November] rains," chief meteorologist James Muhindi told IRIN.

"For now, the rains are reducing in most of the country. This is expected to last for about a week," he said. "However, starting from around 21 November the rains may resume but are not expected to be as heavy as they have been."

November is the peak month in the short-rains season from October to December in most parts of the country.

In Marsabit and Wajir, both in the northeast, rains were twice the normal rate for this period. However, in the central areas the rains were almost normal.

"Close monitoring of the situation and contingency measures by relevant authorities are necessary in order to adequately cope with the situation if it arises," the meteorological department warned.

aw-na/mw

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