Devastating floods threaten to worsen food insecurity in East Africa as heavy rains lash a region that less than a year ago was in the grip of drought, warned Thursday the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).
“ East Africa is being hit by the extremes of climate change - from no water to too much water, it's catastrophic. Severe flooding causes devastation, illustrating how an erratic climate continues to punish the region. With more rain forecast, I fear the worst is yet to come,” said Michael Dunford, WFP Regional Director for Eastern Africa.
Five consecutive "failed" rainy seasons, between 2020 and 2022, led to a devastating drought that left millions of people in food insecurity and malnutrition, with livelihoods destroyed on a large scale - damage including families and communities will take many years to recover.
Today, this nascent recovery is being swept away by floods.
Nearly 3 million people affected
Since the start of the October-December rains, rainfall 140% above average has destroyed property, infrastructure, and crops, and washed away livestock. Dozens of people also lost their lives.
Nearly 3 million people were affected, of whom more than 1.2 million had to leave their homes.
Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya are the countries most affected by this crisis, followed closely by Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, and Uganda**. Rains are expected to persist until early 2024.
WFP has provided food and financial assistance to nearly 580,000 people affected by floods in the Horn of Africa, in addition to those who benefited from its pre-existing aid operations.
Through early warnings and cash transfers, people were able to prepare, either by moving or purchasing essential supplies
In Somalia and Burundi, WFP provided early assistance to 230,000 people before the floods, including through early warnings and cash transfers.
In Ethiopia, above-average rains caused flooding in the south and southeast of the country. An estimated 1.5 million people were affected in Afar, Amhara, Gambella, and Oromia regions. In the Somali region, one of the Ethiopian regions most affected by food insecurity, more than 1.1 million people are affected by the floods, including more than 400,000 people displaced.
Break the cycle of crises
WFP supports governments and humanitarian partners by providing logistics services across the region. However, the scale of the crisis requires greater support and expansion of our operations.
The WFP Regional Director reminded countries gathered at the Climate Conference (COP28) taking place in Dubai that it is “particularly important that developed countries take action to help countries like Somalia and Ethiopia, who are disproportionately paying the high price of the climate crisis.”
“We must break the endless cycle of crises and respond with climate action focused on preparedness and protection before predictable shocks strike,” concluded Michael Dunford.