In recent weeks, heavy rains have triggered devastating floods and landslides across East Africa. As hundreds of thousands are displaced, experts worry about how the region will tackle the effects of the rainfall while curbing further spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic in the region.
The damage caused by the heavy rainfalls has killed hundreds of people in Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, Rwanda and Ethiopia while forcing hundreds of thousands to flee from their homes.
In Kenya, the government released a statement on May 6 revealing that at least 194 people had lost their lives due to the current flood in the country over the last 3 weeks. While about 100,000 have been displaced. The case is no different in Uganda where local media quoting district officials asserted that 120,000 people have been affected by the flood with 100,000 believed to have moved from their homes to stay in temporary shelters set up in local schools, churches and other public buildings.
On Monday, May 11, 2020, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that 16 people have died, 546,103 affected and 216,895 displaced in Somalia since the rains started in early April 2020. In addition, OCHA stated that flooding had affected over 200,000 people in Ethiopia since late April with as many as 12 people dead in a landslide triggered by heavy rain.
Similarly, Rwanda’s Ministry of Emergency Situations (MINEMA) recounts that at least 65 people have died in floods and landslides in the nation after torrential rainfall over the last few days. Subsequently, the rain and floods have destroyed 91 houses, 5 bridges, and washed away crops amongst others in Rwanda.
As a result of these outlined implications derived from heavy downpours in East Africa, health specialists are worried about the regions’ response to the coronavirus outbreak. The Chief Administrative Secretary of Kenya’s health ministry Rashid Aman stated that the flood “is compounding the COVID-19 response.” According to Aman, “displaced people have been forced to congregate in makeshift camps with the risk of banding together exposing them to the possibility of contracting the virus.”
Across East Africa, temporal camps have been established to accommodate displaced persons due to flood-related issues. Nevertheless, authorities in the region are required to ensure that these centres are coronavirus-secured. In other words, provision should be made in the camps for washing hands with soap, face masks should be provided for all residents, likewise, the execution of social distancing should be prioritized.
By doing so, governments in East Africa will be able to control the spread of COVID-19 while nurturing citizens who have been badly hit by flooding caused by recent rainfall.