East Africa Community partner states are sitting on a time bomb as floods cause havoc in the region.
Floods have killed 200 in Kenya, displaced 10,000 people and more than 65 deaths reported in Rwanda by Friday, as a second wave of locusts is expected to hit Kenya next month, threatening agriculture and food security in the region.
This piles misery on the region’s 1,519 Covid-19 cases and almost 200 fatalities as of May 7, 2020.
But it is the floods that are killing more people, and destroying farmlands raising fears of food insecurity, affecting the most vulnerable who are already dealing with effects of both the Coronavirus and poverty.
Only last week, EAC’s Lake Victoria Commission executive secretary Ally-Said Matano warned people living in low laying areas around Lake Victoria in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania to move to higher ground as the lake basin experiences unprecedented high levels of water. This has caused massive flooding in the lake region.
In Kenya, Energy CS Charles Keter, warned at press conference in Nairobi on Wednesday that; “The Masinga dam has reached its full capacity. We are warning those who live along the River Tana, those in downstream counties of Garissa and Tana River to move away from the river.’’
According to the Kenya Metrological Department, the heavy rains are expected to continue until end of May, with parts of western, Mt Kenya, northeastern and Rift Valley put under watch.
“The situation is serious. The reservoir in Masinga as of this morning has reached historical figures of 1,057.86 metres above the sea level. Maximum reservoir is 1,056…it is a serious issue,” the Energy CS said.
Kenya’s Interior Minister CS Dr Fred Matiangi issued a warning: “Effective this morning, Wednesday May 6, we have raised the alarm in relation to floods in the country. We have no option but we will begin to move people out by force. It is better we talk to you when you are still alive than when you are dead,” he said.
Meanwhile Kenya is expanding locust surveillance in the northeastern parts of the country, amid fears of a second wave of invasion later this month.
According to a joint team from the national and county governments collaborating with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) who are leading the fight, the next phase of war on locusts will be won largely if weather conditions such as wind directions as well as the country’s ability to track and spray will be done diligently.
Every day, the surveillance team made up of scouts from the National Youth Service and trained community volunteers go out to gather and relay data using the e-locust 3M smartphone app.
The data will be transmitted to the national locust centre, the FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy as well as at the six command bases which have been set up in the region to co-ordinate training and surveillance activities.
“This war will most likely go into late May and June, latest July. But that will depend on whether we will have new invasions,” Prof Hamadi Boga, the country’s Crops Development and Agricultural Research said.
Earlier this month, FAO had warned locusts could further devastate the region in June, in an invasion that would be 20 times larger than the first one.