NAIROBI, 8 October 2012 (IRIN) - Above-average seasonal rains in parts of the East and Horn of Africa have affected tens of thousands of people, displacing families and restricting access to many in need, say humanitarian officials. The rains, coming ahead of a possible El Niño event, have prompted fears of further flooding.
According to a Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) El Niño special report, weak-to-moderate El Niño conditions are likely to develop in September and to continue through early 2013.
"In East Africa, El Niño events in this period typically lead to wetter-than-normal conditions for the October-to-December rains in the Greater Horn of Africa region."
Flash flooding has already been reported in Somalia's Hiraan region, inundating parts of the town of Beletweyne, displacing an estimated 3,500 families and damaging infrastructure. Beletweyne recorded 188mm of rainfall on 29 September alone.
"The potential for isolated, heavy rainfall remains high over portions of Somalia and eastern Ethiopia," said a 4-10 October Africa Hazards Outlook by the Climate Prediction Center, adding that this may trigger localized flooding in pastoral areas.
Above-average rains are expected to continue through 10 October across Somalia while light rains, less than 25mm, are expected elsewhere in East Africa.
Between June and September, flooding affected over 258,000 people and reached 39 of South Sudan's 79 counties, Michelle Delaney, a reports officer with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told IRIN by email. "Jonglei State has been the worst affected, with over an estimated 200,000 people impacted by the flooding," she said.
The 258,000 figure is triple the number of people affected over the same period in 2011, notes OCHA.
The humanitarian response is ongoing, with the main needs being household items, shelter, food, water, sanitation and hygiene. "Needs are being met in areas which are accessible by humanitarian partners. But increasingly heavy rains and poor road conditions are restricting access to communities in need," Delaney said.
The rainy season, which usually ends around November, could extend due to an El Niño situation, "and increase the likelihood of higher rainfall levels. This could also affect the crop season and livelihood opportunities," she added.
In a September update, the World Health Organization warned that heavy rains in Warrap, Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity states were making the humanitarian situation precarious, "mainly because roads are increasingly becoming impassable, hence cutting off communities, destroying food crops and making it impossible to deliver drugs to the health facilities, thus increasing the rates of stock-outs."
The Sudanese government estimates at least 25,000 people have been affected by flooding in the south-eastern state of Sennar, notes a 24-30 September OCHA bulletin. Among the affected locations are villages near El Dindir locality and Dindir Town. Relief supplies are being provided by boat.
Flash floods have occurred in parts of Central Darfur, destroying the homes of about 1,000 people in Golo Town, the bulletin said. Sudan's Humanitarian Aid Commission has provided non-food relief supplies, including mosquito nets and plastic sheeting, but the area has been inaccessible to humanitarian groups due to insecurity along the Nertiti-Golo Road.
Overall, some 240,000 people in Sudan have been affected by flooding since June, with over 32,000 homes damaged and over 12,000 destroyed, according to Sudan's High Council of Civil Defense. Kassala is the worst affected state, followed by South Darfur, Gedaref and Sennar States.
Downpours in neighbouring Eritrea and Ethiopia have also increased flood risks for Sudan. Ethiopia's overflowing Atbara River already has resulted in floods affecting thousands in Nile River State.
Remote areas in Ethiopia's north-eastern Afar Region have been cut off due to river flooding, said a 15-28 September OCHA Eastern Africa Bulletin. Some 6,859 people have been affected by the flooding there and in the western Gambella region in the past two weeks, said an assessment by the regional Disaster Prevention and Food Security Office.
"The flooding damaged homes and crops," the report said. Still, despite the flooding, parts of northern and southern Ethiopia continue to experience acute water shortages.
Ethiopia's National Meteorological Agency, expects normal to above-normal rainfall in most parts of the country during the coming wet 'bega' season, states a 1 October OCHA report
According to the FEWSNET El Niño special report, increased rains from October to December, possibly continuing into January, could benefit crop and livestock production. But they "could also have negative impacts, including soil erosion, damage to crops and infrastructure, reduced market access caused by flooding, increased morbidity due to increases in human waterborne diseases, and increased livestock mortality due to disease," it said.