Number hit by floods tops 100,000

Rain-induced floods in several parts of Kenya have affected at least 105,000 people and weakened the country's food security situation – already affected by severe drought - a government official said on 15 December.

"Kenya is grappling with the impact of the recent floods in Budalang'i [western Kenya], in the northern areas of Mandera, Isiolo and Wajir, as well as at the Coast," Mohamed Gabow, assistant minister in the Ministry of Special Programmes, said in Nairobi during the launch of Kenya's Emergency Humanitarian Response Plan (EHRP) for 2012 and 2013.

A dozen UN agencies and 42 NGOs launched the 2012+ EHRP appeal for US$764 million for a total 134 projects, with 53 percent of the appeal requirements directed to help refugees.

Gabow said humanitarian agencies should bear in mind the impact of high food and fuel prices on the vulnerable, especially those displaced recently by the floods.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), assessments conducted by the government, UN agencies, the Kenya Red Cross Society and NGOs found that more than 80,000 flood-affected people needed food aid, shelter, tents and non-food items.

"Sanitation facilities for affected people are lacking, and in many cases people are using untreated rain water from pans, a situation that has put their health at risk because of poor sanitation practices in some areas," said OCHA.

"Numerous damaged boreholes require rapid rehabilitation. Access to safe drinking water is reported as critical in several areas. Some families have lost crops, some of which were almost mature, after their farms were submerged by floodwaters. There is potential for continued food insecurity in the northern and eastern districts which have already suffered severe impacts of drought much of this year."

The Meteorological Department said in its December outlook that western Kenya was likely to continue receiving enhanced rainfall while most of the eastern region was likely to experience slightly depressed rainfall.

"The seasonal rainfall is expected to cease by the second week of December over most parts of the northern counties, while cessation over the western, central and southern counties is expected within the third to fourth week of December..." OCHA said.

At the EHRP launch, Mohamed Elmi, the Minister of State for Development of Northern Kenya and other Arid Lands, said the government was factoring in contingency planning in its efforts to mitigate the effect of disasters such as floods and drought.

"With the advent of global climate change, financing mechanisms to mitigate natural disasters need to be more robust, particularly in terms of climate change-related appeals touching on floods and drought," he said. "The government has put in place several mechanisms, including infrastructural improvements and the boosting of irrigation projects, so as to be better prepared to handle these occurrences. In January, the government will launch its Drought and Disaster Contingency Planning Fund, to better respond to emergencies."

Aeneas Chuma, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, said the heightened insecurity in northeastern Kenya (following an incursion by the Kenya Defence Forces into Somalia since October) had shrunk the humanitarian space and compromised humanitarian assistance, particularly in refugee camps.

"Kenya has been disproportionally affected in this regard, being host to the world's largest refugee camp [Dadaab]," he said, adding there were at least 600,000 refugees in the country, 520,000 of them in Dadaab.