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From Dry Spell to Flooded Frenzy: East Africa’s Climate Crisis Demands Action

Storyline:Columnists, Opinions

By Mahbub M Abdillahi

As the rainy season begins, the eastern region of Africa, widely recognized as one of the most climate-vulnerable regions globally, faces yet another crisis, this time flash floods. This follows the recent recovery from one of the worst droughts in decades, which had unprecedented impacts on rural communities across the region. These droughts, exacerbated by the human-induced climate change, have had withering consequences on the region’s agricultural sector, which serves as a lifeline for many.

The agricultural sector is vital sector for over 70% of communities in the region, making significant contributions to the economies of Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, Rwanda, and most of the countries across the region. In Kenya, agriculture contributes more than 30% to its total GDP {Gross Domestic Product} and provides close to 50% of total employment. In Tanzania, it accounts for 25% of the country’s GDP and 24% of its exports. In Rwanda, agriculture contributes over 30% to the country’s economy. In Somalia, the sector accounts for a staggering 70% of the total GDP, while also contributing more than 80% of employment and about 50% of its exports.

The consequences of the recent drought on this vital sector have been dire, with widespread crop failures and significant livestock losses. Maize, a staple crop in the region, has been particularly affected, with yields plummeting by up to 50% in some areas. The resulting food shortages and price escalations have pushed many families to the brink of poverty, forcing them to rely on international aid.

It’s worth noting that the region’s agricultural sector not only provides food for many communities but also is a critical component of the region’s economy. It offers employment opportunities, generates income, and supports the livelihoods of millions of people. The impact of the recent drought and the current ongoing flash floods has affected not only the agricultural sector but also the broader economy, with far-reaching consequences for the region’s economic aspirations, poverty reduction efforts and food security.

The current situation in the region

In the last two weeks, a devastating flood has ravaged Kenya, leaving a trail of destruction and despair in its wake. Over 100,000 people, primarily children and women, have been forced to flee their homes and the death toll stands 120 so far. The economic fallout from the floods is staggering, with submerged roads and disrupted transportation networks crippling daily life. The current ongoing flash floods have also impacted neighboring countries, affecting countries like Burundi and Tanzania. In Tanzania, reports of flash floods have highlighted the severity of the situation, with a death toll exceeding more than 50 and thousands left displaced, struggling to cope with uncertainty.

As the situation develops, Somalia is bracing itself for a heightened risk of flash floods, prompting urgent warnings from the country’s disaster management agency (SoDMA) and international organizations like the UN agencies. Forecasters anticipate that the situation may worsen, with intensive weeks of rains expected above average levels.

Beyond the human toll, the floods have inflicted extensive damage on critical infrastructure, agricultural lands, and livelihoods. The destruction of vital infrastructure has deepened the challenges faced by communities already reeling from the drought disaster. As the region struggles to recover, there is no time to spare, and the crisis is urgent. International support and aid are needed to mobilize to reach those stranded and provide emergency assistance to those affected by the ongoing crisis.

The region cannot afford these cycle of crisis

The current crisis accentuates the fragility of the region and its susceptibility to climate change-induced disruptions. These recurring crises are not only taking a toll on the region economically but also highlights the urgent need for durable solutions to mitigate the devastating impacts of climate crisis. There must be a paradigm shift; the region cannot afford to remain in a perpetual state of crisis.

These crises are plunging millions into poverty, hindering the region’s progress towards economic stability. Furthermore, they impede the efforts of fragile countries to invest in climate adaptation, achieve sustainability targets, and mitigate the overarching planetary crisis.

Additionally, the region requires immediate financial mechanisms to address both adaptation and mitigation, as well as the escalating losses and damages resulting from these crises.

In conclusion, the recent droughts and the ongoing floods, which have affected tens of thousands of people, should serve as a reminder of the region’s vulnerability. These events demand that the crises facing the region can no longer be ignored. The establishment of effective financial mechanisms and concerted efforts to tackle these crises are imperative, and the time to act is now.

Abdillahi is a lecturer and media contributor