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Horn of Africa: 600,000 children affected by devastating floods as torrential rains threaten to wreak further havoc – Kenya

NAIROBI, May 31, 2024 – Devastating floods and landslides have affected some 600,000 children in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia (1) so far this year, and the number could reach 1.5 million when the rains end, according to analysis by Save the Children .(2 )

The torrential rains, which come after years of drought and have been attributed to both human-induced climate change and the end of the natural El Niño weather pattern (3), have displaced more than 420,000 people and at least 330 have died. due to unusual conditions. heavy flooding in all three countries.

This has left people facing an increasing risk of going hungry and has led to a rise in cases of waterborne diseases, such as cholera, which hit children hardest. This year there have been almost 27,000 cases of cholera in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, and almost 60% of cases in Somalia affected children under five years of age (4).

The rains are the latest in a series of extreme weather events to hit East Africa. In November, devastating floods killed at least 350 people and displaced more than 2.3 million. Those floods followed the region’s worst drought in 40 years due to five failed rainy seasons.

In addition to the natural El Niño phenomenon, which is currently declining after starting in June last year, human-induced climate change is making these types of extreme weather events more frequent and severe. This year, El Niño has contributed to global warming in temperatures, accelerating these impacts of climate change, to which the Horn of Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world.

Sharif*, 50, elderly man in a camp for displaced people in Galkayo, Somalia, He said the situation was getting worse every year. People living in the countryside fear being swept away by floodwaters and losing their shelters, made from tree branches and cloth, when it floods.

“Earlier (the weather) used to be cold during the night or day, but now it is hot 24/7. The rain comes accompanied by strong winds that destroy even the trees. When we see the rain coming, we fear for our lives. When it starts to rain and gets dark, everyone fears for their lives. Mothers hold their babies close to their chest. “It’s one of the worst things you can experience.”

Fatima*, 60 years old, and her grandchildren fled their home in the central Beledweyne region of Somalia six months ago due to flooding. The family now lives in a camp for displaced people in Galkayo. Fatima’s daughter died two years ago, making her the sole guardian of her six grandchildren.

“I have experienced several floods, but the one at the end of last year was the worst I have ever seen. The previous ones were manageable, but this one destroyed everything. I don’t have any plan on how I can protect my family in case of upcoming floods. We will decide when the next flood will come.”

Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children International, during a visit to Kenya and Somalia, said:

“The impacts of these floods, linked to both El Niño and climate change, are disastrous for children and threaten their rights. It is another very common example of how the climate crisis disproportionately affects those who have done the least to cause it and are the least capable of withstanding its most harmful effects: children.

“Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, home to some 92 million children, are among the most vulnerable countries in the world to the climate crisis. Repeated food shortages, disease outbreaks and climate disasters like these floods – all worsened by climate change – leave millions of children hungry, homeless, out of school, exposed to safety risks and fearful of the next disaster.

“Children are the most affected by extreme weather events in an increasingly unequal world. We need to see much more ambition in child-friendly climate finance from high-income and historical emitting countries that foregrounds the different needs and vulnerabilities of children. Recognizing that when a disaster like these floods occurs, it affects a child’s entire world, they must also engage in climate adaptation measures and help build communities’ resilience to climate-related crises. , both in the short and long term.”

In Kenya, incessant rains across much of the country since March have caused flash floods that have so far killed at least 315 people, including 73 children, and displaced more than 290,000 people. The floods forced the closure of schools and damaged and destroyed roads, farms, bridges, schools and health facilities.(5) Refugees living in the Dadaab camps have been displaced once again.

In Somalia, heavy rains and flash floods have affected 226,000 people, two-thirds of them children. Nearly 39,000 people have been displaced and thousands of families have lost their livelihoods. Cases and deaths from acute watery diarrhea and cholera continue to rise. (6)

Across Ethiopia, heavy rains and flooding since early April have affected 590,000 people and caused significant damage to homes, infrastructure and farms, exacerbating the impact of conflict, drought and the ongoing cholera outbreak.(7)

Save the Children has worked in the Horn of Africa for more than 70 years and is a national and international leader in humanitarian and development programming in health, nutrition, water, hygiene and sanitation, education, child protection and child rights governance. In 2023, Save the Children will reach 12.5 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, including more than 6.9 million children.

In the Horn of Africa and around the world, Save the Children is working with governments to find ways to increase funding for climate policies and actions that protect children’s rights. Save the Children is implementing climate programs in more than 50 countries around the world and delivering direct climate action, from working with communities to adapt to the climate changes affecting them now, to forecasting future emergencies and strengthening communities’ capacity to anticipate, adapt, prepare, respond and recover.

Save the Children hopes that the “expert dialogue” on children and climate change at next week’s Bonn intersessional period of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will lead to shared understanding and based on evidence of the unique and disproportionate impacts of climate change. In the kids.

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