East Africa ‘super El Nino’: Death toll rises as flooding crisis worsens in Kenya, Somalia

The whole of East Africa needs $53.3 billion to confront the climate change crisis

By Tony Malesi
Published: Sunday 26 November 2023
A photo of marooned people shared by the Kenyan Red Cross on its X account. Credit: @KenyaRedCross / X__

Severe flooding has killed nearly 200 people in Kenya and Somalia as of November 26, 2023, as El Nino-induced rainfall continues to wreak havoc in East Africa.

The Kenyan Red Cross and Government of Ethiopia confirmed floods had killed 90 people in Kenya, over 100 in Somalia and displaced thousands of others, placing immense strain on emergency response teams.

“Severe flooding in Kenya, caused by unusually active El Nino rains, has killed at least 90 people and displaced thousands. Thousands of homes have been washed away or are marooned, while thousands of acres of farmland has been submerged and livestock drowned,” said the Kenyan Red Cross in an alert.

Widespread flooding has affected 33 of Kenya’s 47 counties, with those in its northern and eastern parts the worst-hit. Over 17,600 acres of farmland have been destroyed and over 13,400 livestock deaths reported.

Locals have told emergency response teams and the press that there has been damage to water and sanitation infrastructure, as well as disruption of normal service and access to clean water.

Alice Mwawasi, a resident of Kilifi County on the Kenyan coast, told rescuers her village had been completely cut off for two days after key link roads were submerged.

“Supply chains for food, water and medical resources have been severely disrupted. To make matters worse, roads have either been swept away or made impassable. Besides prolonged power outages at health facilities, medical emergency referrals are restricted by lack of transportation. It’s even worse for the elderly, women and children,” said Mwawasi.

Somalia worst-hit 

Somalia, like many other countries in the Horn of Africa, is battling floods but has the biggest death toll of 100, according to the government. Heavy rains and flooding have extended to more areas of Somalia, with 33 of Somalia’s 74 districts now affected.

“The floods have swept away 14 more people, pushing the death toll to 100. The expanding emergency has affected at least 1.7 million people across Somalia, of whom 695,000 are displaced from their homes. Vast swathes of farmland have been engulfed, properties destroyed and infrastructure damaged,” the Somalian government in a statement.

The authorities said most newly affected districts are in the Banadir region, South West State, Hirshabelle State and Jubaland States next to the Kenyan border.

The death toll has also been rising in Ethiopia, with the flooding devastation spread across other countries like Tanzania but with limited impact. Halima Hassan, a mother of six from Daynille, Somalia told emergency response teams that she is now displaced for the second time in a year.


“I lost my home, livestock, nearly everything I had to the drought. My family had to relocate to this site for displaced people where we had just started to rebuild our lives but now comes the flood. The little I had left — my makeshift camp, six goats — is gone. I don’t know where my family will eat next, let alone sleep,” said Halima.

Some of the hardest-hit areas in the Horn of Africa have been the arid and semi-arid lands, with majority of them in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, where pastoralism is the economic driver for livelihoods.

For the Horn of Africa, it’s been crisis after crisis, with the region often grappling with drought and flooding alternately. The region is still recovering from the worst drought in 40 years and authorities are concerned the floods are likely to be historic in some parts.

Emergency appeal

Despite early warnings of impending floods, most governments in East Africa were caught unawares largely due to lack of sufficient funds to build resilience, mitigation and adaptation capacity.

Worryingly, despite calls for heavily industrialised countries and notorious polluters to cut deadly emissions and pay their fair share in humanitarian and climate financing, some (like the UK, Canada and Germany) plan to reduce their 2024 humanitarian assistance budgets by up to 50 per cent, according to Oxfam in Africa.

As per Oxfam in Africa, the whole of East Africa needs $53.3 billion to confront the climate change crisis. Meanwhile, the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plans for Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya, which require $7 billion to target 33 million people is only 41 per cent funded.

The 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan for Somalia has received $1.1 billion of the $2.6 billion needed (43 per cent), Ethiopia 1.4 billion of the 4 billion needed (35 per cent) and Kenya 376.6 million of the 452 million needed (83 per cent), according to Oxfam in Africa.

Besides post-harvest losses and food insecurity, humanitarian agencies are concerned the widespread flooding may also increase likelihood of outbreak of deadly disease such as cholera, malaria, mental health issues and trauma if effective mitigation plans are not put in place.

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