How prepared are we for the unpredictable weather?

The recent floods caused by torrential rains in Rwanda that killed 15 people and destroyed hundreds of homes, may be a strong reason for enhancing methods of disaster preparedness.

The recent floods caused by torrential rains in Rwanda that killed 15 people and destroyed hundreds of homes, may be a strong reason for enhancing methods of disaster preparedness.

The rains that started on September  12, at around 12:00 noon and kept pouring for days, led to the displacement of more people on top of loss of property and crops.

It is heart breaking to see bodies of Rwandans being pulled out of mud and the feeling of an uncertainty that the number of those who have lost their livelihoods will be hard to determine.

This is so because it is not known when the rains will stop.

According to the research conducted by a climatologist Curt Stager of Paul Smith’s College, the increase in floods in East Africa is due to the fact that the link between sunspots and rainfall is growing weaker and that this has been the case throughout the 20th Century.

Stager suggests that the increased solar energy is associated with sunspots which heat both land and sea, forcing moist air to rise and triggering precipitation. It may also induce El Niño events, which increase rainfall amounts in East Africa.

Previous statistical analyses discounted the link to a variety of reasons, including the influence of climatic disturbances not associated with sunspots.

These rains apart from killing a number of people and displacing over 500 families in the worst-hit region in the northern hills of Rwanda will be a continuous threat to the people in the region.

The wet conditions will favour mosquitoes and other disease-carrying organisms to thrive in the region which will cause an additional disaster to people living there.

If these floods are to continue, there is likely to be possible outbreaks of cholera and other waterborne diseases, malaria, respiratory infections and intestinal parasites in the region.

Heavy rains and floods have killed dozens and displaced hundreds of thousands in several regions of the African continent in recent weeks.

When one thinks of climate troubles in Africa, very few think about floods because many parts of Africa suffer from drought yet too much rain can create just as many problems to people living in Africa. 

In Ethiopia, helicopters last week were flying emergency supplies to some 122,500 people displaced by massive floods in the eastern Ogaden region where 80 people died according to U.N. World Food Programme (WFP).

The Ethiopian government has launched an appeal for $27 million for emergency items.

The countries neighbouring Rwanda have also suffered from the rains.

In Uganda, six districts in the Eastern part of the country were soaked for over a month by the heaviest rains in the last 35 years, according to the New Vision, a Ugandan daily.

An assessment by the Uganda Red Cross Society has put the number of households affected by the floods to an estimate of 10,200.

Apart from the loss of many lives in Uganda, the rains destroyed bridges and highways, making it difficult for help to reach displaced people.

Kenya was also affected with more than 1,000 families being displaced after heavy rains in the western highlands caused a river to burst its banks and flood villages.

The coming decades are likely to see a higher flood risk in Africa and greater economic damage.

The scale and frequency of floods are likely to increase due to climate change - which will bring higher intensity of rainfall and rising sea levels.

With an increasing number of people in Africa living in areas at risk of flooding, there is fear that the number of economic activities located in flood risk zones will continue to grow and may end up being affected in the future.

Catastrophic floods endanger lives and are likely to cause human tragedy as well as heavy economic losses.

Countries should choose the right tools with which to reduce the likelihood of floods and limit their impacts.

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