HEAVY rains have brought deadly flooding to East Africa, leading to fatal landslips. In Kenya, a burst dam killed dozens of people as homes were swept away by the force of the escaping water.
The torrential rains across the region come after last year’s devastating drought on the Horn and East Africa, which had already forced families into famine (News, 17 March 2017).
The month of rain has destroyed roads and infrastructure in Kenya, Somalia, and Rwanda, and thousands of hectares of farmland and crops have been washed away. The Somalian government has declared a national emergency, and, with the UN, it has launched an appeal for $80 million in emergency aid.
More than 300 people are thought to have died in the floods in the region. Hundreds of thousands more have been forced from their homes.
East Africa is now entering the peak of the rainy season, and the heavy rains are predicted to continue to fall throughout May. In Kenya, many families are already living in church compounds after their homes were destroyed by floodwater.
The Archbishop of Kenya, Dr Jackson Ole Sapit, said: “The situation is overwhelming. The floods are everywhere across the country. The people urgently need shelter and other basic needs. We have communicated that pastors make available churches as places of shelter for the displaced families.”
The head of the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church, Bishop Zachariah Kahuthu, said: “Our clergy have told us that the congregations in the flooded areas are suffering. They have opened the church doors to the populations, but we must act fast to save lives.”
At least 45 people were killed when the Patel Dam burst in Solai, Kenya, last week. The dam, on a commercial farm, burst at about 9 p.m. local time, and swept away the homes of farm workers.
In Burundi, the Bishop of Bujumbura, the Rt Revd Eraste Bigirimana, told the Anglican Communion office that “heavy rain has caused a flood in Bujumbura which destroyed a number of houses in our diocese. Many people are without shelter and assistance.”
The Christian charity World Vision said that 1.2 million people had been affected by the floods. The charity’s Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs Director in East Africa, Christopher Hoffman, said: “Over the past few years, the intensity of recurring natural disasters in Eastern Africa has worsened by the effects of climate change.
“With the recent flooding in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, millions of people have been affected, and thousands displaced. People are living in makeshift shelters without food, clean water, or adequate sanitation.”