PSI statement on devastating torrential storms in East Africa

PSI is saddened by the ongoing floods and landslides that have caused death and massive destruction in West Pokot County in Kenya and the Mwanza Region in Tanzania. On Saturday 23 November, at least 39 people tragically lost their lives due to torrential storms in the region, with 29 buried by landslides in Kenya and 10 people drowning in a river in Tanzania.

Infrastructure has been swept away and more than 500 vehicles were left stuck on roads damaged by the mudslides in Kenya. The death toll in Kenya had, as at Monday 25 November, climbed up to 52. PSI sends its heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims, and its thoughts to those who have lost property and possessions at this difficult time.

Torrential storms have destroyed infrastructure and blocked access to the affected areas.

Experts and officials have blamed the current storms on extreme weather conditions on the Indian Ocean Dipole; a climate system defined by the difference in sea surface temperature between western and eastern areas of the ocean. The coast of East Africa is currently said to be far warmer than usual, resulting in higher evaporation causing rain over the continent. This advice and evidence provided by experts and authorities is important and cannot be ignored. However, noting that similar conditions in Kenya killed at least 100 people and displaced thousands in April last year, it is clear that more could be done to avoid a repeat of such a devastating situation in the region.

Without the proper infrastructure to handle recurring natural extreme weather conditions, it is difficult to prevent the kind of destruction currently being witnessed in the region.

The torrential rains in East Africa have cut off major roads, making it impossible to reach the affected villages by means other than by air. This has delayed any sort of emergency and relief operations from taking place and delaying more damage. There is a serious problem, and this is not the first time.

PSI calls on authorities to push more funding into adequate infrastructure in especially remote areas, in order to allow emergency and rescue workers into the affected communities. In putting in place better infrastructure, residents of the affected areas would also be able to safely evacuate the affected regions. The more there is delay, the more death and devastation continue to affect our communities. We call on state actors to take more responsibility immediately.