Rising death toll as floods wreak havoc in Ethiopia and Kenya

satellite image of horn of africa on november 3 2023

Over 20 individuals have died and upwards of 12 000 families have been evacuated due to severe flooding in the Somali region of Ethiopia, the regional government reported on November 4, 2023, adding that flooding also caused significant destruction to infrastructure, hindering aid to those affected.

The Ethiopian Somali region has been struck by devastating flash floods over the past 4 days, resulting in the loss of over 20 lives and the displacement of more than 12 000 families. On November 4, 2023, the regional administration confirmed the calamity, emphasizing the difficulty in reaching the affected populations due to demolished bridges and roads. The continued rainfall poses an ongoing threat, with forecasts predicting the possibility of further flooding.

The Somali Regional State Communication Bureau detailed the extensive damage to livestock, crops, and property, painting a dire picture of the flood’s impact on the local economy and sustenance of the community.

Heavy rainfall and flooding have also been affecting neighboring Kenya since November 2. In Mandera County, the northeasternmost region of Kenya, bordering Ethiopia and Somalia, torrential rains have caused the Dawa River to overflow, leading to substantial flooding throughout the area. As of November 6, reports have confirmed five fatalities within the county, with three of these deaths occurring in the Mandera South Constituency. The impact of the flooding has been considerable, with media sources indicating that upwards of 1 800 families have been displaced. The deluge has affected nearly 5 000 homes and directly impacted over 4 900 residents across the county.

The situation remains critical as forecasts predict continued heavy rainfall over the next three days, which is expected to affect most parts of Kenya, including Mandera County. These conditions threaten to exacerbate the already dire circumstances, raising concerns about further casualties, displacements, and infrastructural damage.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had anticipated such events, citing the El Niño phenomenon’s influence on the region’s October-December weather patterns.

According to OCHA’s recent situation report, the monsoon season has already affected over 405 652 individuals in Somalia, with a death toll of 14. Additionally, approximately 47 100 people have been compelled to seek refuge on higher ground, escaping the imminent threat of flooding. The inundation has severed access to essential resources, including markets and farmland, exacerbating the plight of those in the Horn of Africa.

The ongoing crisis echoes the severe drought that has plagued Somalia, Ethiopia, and parts of Kenya since late 2020, considered the worst in four decades. In stark contrast, towards the end of 2019, the region was battered by persistent heavy rainfall that led to the deaths of at least 265 people and the displacement of tens of thousands across several East African nations.


1 Floods in Ethiopia kill over 20, displace thousands – AFP – November 4, 2023

2 Kenya floods – DG ECHO – November 6, 2023

Featured image credit: NOAA-20/VIIRS, The Watchers. Acquired on November 3, 2023


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