Flash floods have displaced 120,000 people in Ethiopia and a total of almost half a million are expected to be affected this year, sparking another weather-related crisis in the country already experiencing severe drought.
Data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) showed 119,711 people in six provinces had been displaced by last month’s “exceptional” flooding. Some of the affected regions had already been hard hit by food shortages, it said.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said in a newsletter that a total of nearly 190,000 people across Ethiopia could be “displaced at some point.”
The flooding that began last month is part of the global El Nino weather phenomenon that had previously caused a severe drought in the Horn of Africa nation following successive failed rains.
State-affiliated news outlets said up to 50 people had died so far from flooding or flooding-induced mudslides in Ethiopia’s southern regions.
River and flash floods caused by Ethiopia’s “belg” rains which run from February to April are likely to affect a total of 485,610 people this year, UNOCHA said. According to the agency, these floods are hampering the deliveries of food aid in the East African nation.
The El Nino phenomenon is a warming of ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific that occurs every 3-5 years, causing drought conditions in some regions, while increasing rainfall in others.
Global consequences include drought in some parts of the Americas, eastern, and southern Africa and southeast Asia, as well as abnormally wetter conditions in some countries.
Severe droughts and heavy rains have plagued parts of eastern and southern Africa over the last two years. The extreme weather caused by El Niño has exacerbated the region’s troubles, causing crop failures and disease outbreaks that have left nearly a million malnourished children in need of treatment.
While countries like Ethiopia and Zimbabwe have been experiencing severe drought, Somalia, and Kenya have been hit with flooding. Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and most provinces of South Africa have declared states of emergency due to drought, while in Kenya flooding has fueled cholera outbreaks.
Over the last two growing seasons, drought in Ethiopia has left six million kids in need of food assistance, while also forcing children to search for water, which is keeping them out of school. The drought in Ethiopia has left 10.2 million people in need of food aid and aid agencies say that figure could rise to more than 15 million by August out of the country’s total population of 90 million.
Ethiopia was ravaged by famine in 1984, which killed hundreds of thousands of people, but it now boasts one of the Africa’s fastest growing economies and experts say it is far better able to cope with a new crisis.