Rising Waters Crisis: A Growing Threat

The African continent has been facing an increase in floods lately, especially in areas like Kenya and Sub-Saharan Africa. This situation has been made worse by the alarming threat of climate change.

The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events increase with temperature rise, with floods wreaking catastrophe on infrastructure, agriculture, and communities.

Beyond the immediate disaster, these floods have far-reaching effects on food security and heighten existing vulnerability in areas that are already dealing with serious issues.

Currently, the escalating rains are causing the destruction of property and crops in most of the regions in Kenya. The Kenya Meteorogical Department (KMD) has warned that heavy rains will be experienced in the coming days.

Landslide effects in Mahi Mahiu Area. Photo Courtesy: The Star

Kenya and Sub-Saharan Africa have been no strangers to flooding. In Africa from 2013 to 2022, more than 100,000 people died or were missing because of disasters, and an additional 131 million people were affected (SFM, 2023). Moreover, Africa suffers the highest prevalence of flooding globally, with over 32 million people affected each year. Recent years have witnessed a worrying escalation in the frequency and severity of floods, with devastating consequences for millions of people across the region.

For instance, an average of 1.3 million people are estimated to be forcibly displaced each year (ICPAC, 2023). This year, the numbers are already shooting up and likely to surpass last year’s.

In Kenya, floods have become an annual occurrence, displacing communities, destroying homes, and disrupting livelihoods. According to the Kenya Red Cross, El Niño floods have displaced more than 300,000 people, resulting in over 181 deaths. More than 17,000 livestock deaths have been reported in different parts of the country since floods began in November 2023. The situation is turning worse.

Over the last few days, social media videos and mainstream media reports indicate that the affected people were receiving little to no support from the government to reach safety and to access essential services such as shelter, health care, and food assistance. 

The situation is mirrored across Sub-Saharan Africa, like Tanzania also grapple with the devastating impacts of floods.

Food Insecurity: A Looming Crisis

The impact of floods on food security is profound and multifaceted. In poor urban areas, the displaced people have been ripped off their normal access to their livelihood, especially those at riparian areas. We have witnessed land slides also displacing people in and destroying farmlands, and causing unprecedented deaths.

Floods submaerging crops in Seneka and Oltanki areas, Narok East Sub-county. Photo Source: Kenya News Agency.

Flooding in the arable areas is likely to significantly affect food production and yields. Outbursts of major rivers is sweeping out crops, washing away top soil , and disrupting supply chains, which can lead to food shortages and price spikes.

Nyandarua County is one area affected. Food suppliers cannot access food from the farm because of the impassable roads. This means farmers in this food basket area are going to suffer losses if long term interventions are not put in place.

NDMA reports that about two million people in Kenya are in need of food assistance, a situation exacerbated by the ongoing rains.

Interventions: Navigating the Crisis

Although Kenya seems to have the requisite capacity and resources to sufficiently prepare for the heavy rains, the government has been slow to act despite warnings from the meteorological department and its partners.

The extent of the damage that is currently taking place stresses how important it is for the government to prepare for and act quickly in the event of a natural disaster or climate change.

In its plans to combat climate change, including the comprehensive National Climate Change Action Plan 2023–2027 and its disaster response plans, Kenya identified flooding as a risk, and the national disaster management unit must act swiftly to implement the mandate stated in the action plan.

Statement from the Ministry of Interior read that the Government is making specific interventions to meet food supply, which include rice and beans totaling to 336 tonnes.

Currently the government has opened over 115 camps in 19 counties, hosting over 27,000 internally displaced people.

Hoing forward, Addressing the intersecting challenges of floods, climate change, and food insecurity requires a multifaceted approach that combines disaster preparedness, climate adaptation, and sustainable development strategies.

  1. Early Warning Systems: these should be community-based to help prepare communities for floods and evacuate vulnerable areas before disaster strikes. The need for two-way communication between early warning institutions and at-risk communities should be made more effective.
  2. Adopting climate-smart agricultural practices, such as agroforestry, and soil conservation techniques, can help farmers adapt to changing weather patterns and reduce the risk of crop loss.
  3. Empowering local communities to take ownership of disaster risk reduction and adaptation initiatives is crucial for building resilience from the ground up and therefore, safeguarding livelihoods and enhancing food security.
  1. We must address the root causes of climate change by enhancing global cooperation and fulfilling commitments to climate finance, providing funding and technical assistance to support adaptation and mitigation efforts in the most affected regions.
  2. Building resilient infrastructure, is necessary than ever. Thorough environmental assessments should be done routinely to keep people on track. This includes flood defenses, water management systems, and climate-resilient housing, and standby rescue teams.

The floods ravaging Kenya and Sub-Saharan Africa are not merely natural disasters; they are distinctive of a deeper crisis fueled by climate change and aggravated by socio-economic vulnerabilities. It is high time for the government to stop waiting for disasters to strike and then rush to create motions to adjust budgets and boardroom committees to create solutions.

A last-minute rush is likely to result in inadequate disaster management due to poor planning, inadequate coordination of necessary institutions, calamity overload, and misappropriation of funds. We must start acting right by making inferences about early warning systems.

Tackling this crisis requires urgent action at the local, national, and international levels. Keep safe, evacuate where possible and necessary, do not risk your life and do not wait, take action where you are. Only through collective action and solidarity, we hope to navigate the turbulent waters ahead and secure a sustainable future for all.


UNDRR Country Reports on Public Investment Planning for Disaster Risk Reduction

Global Status of Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems, 2023

National Drought Management Authority.

For more information, contact info@fspnafrica.org.