Emergency assistance needed in Eastern Africa following months of heavy rains linked to El Niño

Large numbers of people are in need of emergency assistance in Eastern Africa following months of heavy rains associated with El Niño. A Special Report issued by FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS) says that floods in most parts of the sub-region have severely damaged crops - in the fields and in stores - and infrastructure - roads, bridges and railway lines. Food production and distribution has been seriously affected. Large numbers of livestock have been lost and in some countries - such as Kenya and Somalia - loss of human life has also been significant.

In Kenya the rains were particularly heavy in November 1997 and January 1998 and the main and second season maize crops - the country's staple - were adversely affected. The Government has declared the worst affected areas a Disaster Zone and appealed for international assistance. An explosion in the mosquito population caused by the floods was responsible for an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever in October 1997 and other diseases. Hundreds of people and thousands of cattle, sheep, goats and camels have died of the disease.

In Somalia, torrential rains in mid-October 1997 caused 2 000 deaths and left 250 000 people homeless. Floods alone resulted in the deaths of about 35 500 livestock. The outbreak of Rift Valley Fever, that spread from northeastern Kenya to southern Somalia, combined with other animal diseases, have killed many hundreds more - mainly camels and goats. Other severely affected countries are Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

16 February 1998

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