Sunday, October 18, 2009

El Nino could spur Horn of Africa floods


Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda are bracing for potentially devastating flooding triggered by El Nino weather patterns, U.N. officials say.

The countries, already in the midst of a severe drought, will likely be hit by mudslides, crop destruction, water-borne diseases and disrupted road networks, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Friday, adding that Djibouti, Eritrea and Ethiopia could also be affected.

"More than 23 million people in pastoral, agricultural and sub-urban communities, as well as internally displaced people and refugees in the region, are reeling from the impact of water and food shortages, pasture scarcity, conflict and insecurity," Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said in a release.

Holmes said that while weather disasters can't be predicted, "we certainly can mitigate their disastrous effects through forward planning and the right funding from the donor community."

U.N. officials pointed out that meteorologists have forecast that the region's annual rainy season, which lasts from from mid-October through the end of the year, will be more intense than usual due to the recurrence of the El Nino weather phenomenon, worsened by the disappearance of vegetation by the prolonged drought in much of the region.