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Warm sea temperature could unleash flooding in 18 African countries

Warm sea surface temperatures in the western Indian Ocean may result in heavy rainfall likely to cause flooding in 18 African countries for the next two months according to scientists at the IGAD Climate Prediction and Application Centre (ICPAC).

“According to our monthly and seasonal forecasts, higher than usual rains are expected to persist throughout November and December,” ICPAC meteorologist Abubakr Salih Babiker said in a November 3 update.

Babiker encouraged stakeholders to take necessary measures to mitigate risks associated with expected flooding across the region.

Climate Outlook for November 2019, ICPAC

Climate Outlook for November 2019. Image: ICPAC

The IGAD Climate Prediction and Application Centre’s tracks surface winds flowing inland from the Indian Ocean which push warm moist air into the coast of the Horn of Africa. This will increase the likelihood of rainfall over neighbouring countries.

Warmer than average SST conditions dominated the western and central equatorial Indian Ocean, while eastern equatorial Indian Ocean recorded cooler than average SST.

The yellow arrows represent the wind direction while the white patches represent clouds likely to form over the East African coast. The red shading denotes sea surface warming while blue denotes cooling. Image: Merchant

Thousands already affected by active floods

According to the International Federation of Red Cross’ multi-country situation update issued on November 2, floods have already affected over 421 000 people. More than a million people will be affected before the crisis is over according to the update.

The countries affected are Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and South Sudan.

Heavy seasonal rains have also caused flooding in Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, DRC, Tanzania and Sudan.

EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides linked heavy rainfall in the Horn of Africa region to climate change.

“These floods are a clear consequence of climate change, and are now a further driver of displacement and suffering to already vulnerable people,” Stylianides said.

On October 31, the European Commission provided €3 million in emergency aid to humanitarian organisations in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan. The funds will be used to provide emergency shelter, food, logistics support as well as water, hygiene and sanitation assistance for displaced people.

A United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) statement released on October 25 said rains are likely to continue for another four to six weeks, putting more people at risk.

According to OCHA, extreme weather events linked to climate change displace 20 to 25 million people each year. The heavy seasonal flooding that has devastated large areas of South Sudan since July has affected about 908 000 people.

Floods affect Somalia’s Internally Displaced Population

Heavy rains expected in the first few weeks in November could worsen the humanitarian situation caused by flooding along the Juba and Shebelle rivers in Somalia.

Heavy downpours related to the Deyr rainy season have displaced more than 273 000 in October alone according to the Nowergian Refugee Council (NRC).

“Livestock has been lost and agricultural production has been decimated. Our team is extremely worried about at least 30 000 vulnerable people displaced by flash flooding in Bardaale [Bardere], further south,” NRC Country Director in Somalia Victor Moses said.

Flooding along the Shabelle and Juba rivers, October 2019

Heavy rain is forecast across parts of Somalia and more flooding is expected along the Shabelle and Juba rivers. Image: Nowergian Refugee Council

Moses said in Baladweyne floods destroyed more than three-quarters of the city and submerged many surrounding villages.

Baladweyne is a city in central Somalia that acts as an economic hub for Central Somalia, Puntland and Somaliland. The city also hosts about 30 000 Internally Displaced People. The floods destroyed 2000 makeshift tents according to NRC.

An ACTED rapid needs assessment conducted on October 22 - 23 says heavy downpours in Bardere destroyed agricultural equipment and affected IDP camps and agro pastoralists. Most cultivable land was also underwater while irrigated crops were destroyed by the flood.

A village along the west bank of Juba River cut off by flooding in mid October 2019

A village along the west bank of Juba River cut off by flooding in mid October. Image: ACTED

According to Somali Water and Land Information Management a total of 111 settlements in

the Belet Weyne District that lies along the Shabelle River were under water on October 31. Floods have affected more than 160 000 people in the area.

Above average rains expected in Kenya in November

In Kenya heavy rainfall that began in early October has caused at least 29 deaths according to OCHA. The flooding has affected more than 100 000 people and displaced 14 000 with Kenya’s north-east among the hardest-hit areas.

According to the Kenya Meteorological Department’s Director Stella Aura, strong southeasterly winds of more than 25 knots are expected to accompany rainfall in several parts of the country until November 6.

The monthly forecast says most parts of the country are likely to experience above average rainfall for the rest of November.

Kenya Meteorological Department

Heavy storms are likely to be more frequent in the Lake Victoria Basin, Highlands West of the Rift Valley and Central and South Rift Valley regions.

The coastal strip that includes Mombasa, Tana River, Kilifi, Lamu and Kwale is also expected to receive significant rainfall. This is likely to affect urban centers with poorly drained streets and may render roads impassable according to the forecast.

The meteorological department expects the above average rainfall to taper off in the first week of December. The rains are likely to be favourable for the agriculture sector and improve foliage and pasture conditions in the northwestern, northeastern and southeastern part of the country.

However, the seasonal forecast warns about lightning strikes that might occur in counties like Kisii, Kisumu, Kakamega and Mugoma. Poor drainage in some areas may also cause pools of stagnant water and increase the risk of waterborne diseases.


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