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Floodwaters rise across the Horn of Africa

International | Heavy rains and mudslides are destroying areas already battling other crises
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 12/03/19, 04:18 pm

When flash floods rushed through the small East African nation of Djibouti last week, authorities said the influx of water brought the equivalent of two years’ worth of rainfall in a single day. At least nine people died, and the flooding affected up to 250,000 people nationwide.

In a joint statement last week with the United Nations, the Djibouti government said damaged roads made it difficult to access some areas as officials worked to assess the full scope of the disaster. Poor infrastructure and substandard building practices also exacerbated the damage.

Countries in the Greater Horn of Africa region, including Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan, witnessed heavier and longer-lasting rainfall this season. From October to mid-November, rainfall rose 300 percent above average, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network. Weather experts blamed the change on an unprecedented rise in temperatures in the Indian Ocean.

The flooding has left emergency workers scrambling to assist people in nations already battling other crises.

In Kenya, officials recorded at least 120 deaths from heavy flooding and mudslides, mostly in hard-hit West Pokot County. Since October, the rains have affected more than 160,000 people nationwide, according to the Kenya Red Cross. The country’s meteorological department said many parts of the country will experience above-average rainfall this month and urged residents in at-risk areas to remain alert.

One survivor, Cherish Limansin, said the storms have taken everything. “We wake up with nothing,” Limansin said. “If it wasn’t for the little help we get, we would have nothing, and so far today we have eaten nothing.”

Asha Mohammed of the Kenya Red Cross said the organization has had to scale up its response. “We’re most worried about families who have been cut off from life-saving support,” she said. “Our teams are doing everything they can to reach these areas, including using boats and treading deep waters to evacuate families in high-risk areas, conducting search-and-rescue efforts, and providing basic health services.”

Similar floods have affected about 547,000 people in Somalia and 900,000 in South Sudan. Ahead of the disaster, nearly two-thirds of the affected areas in war-torn South Sudan reported critical levels of malnutrition. The floods submerged communities and destroyed crops and shelters for already displaced people.

“I spoke to one elderly displaced resident who had sought refuge in an overcrowded church standing on a small patch of dry ground in the middle of a quagmire,” said Jean-Philippe Chauzy, the South Sudan chief of mission with the International Organization for Migration. “She told me she cannot remember floods of this magnitude.”

Simon Missiri, the regional Africa director with the International Federation for Red Cross, called for improved flood control methods to respond to the persistent weather conditions: “Better disaster preparedness, water flow control methods, adaptive agriculture, and more efficient methods of collecting and storing water can all help turn the threat of flooding into an economic and agricultural boon for millions of people.”

Wikimedia Commons/Mx. Granger Wikimedia Commons/Mx. Granger The Chinese Embassy in Reykjavík, Iceland

China tops list

China now operates more diplomatic outposts around the world than any other country, displacing the United States as it continues its push to become the top global power.

According to the 2019 Global Diplomacy Index, released last week by the Lowy Institute, China now operates a total of 276 embassies, consulates, and permanent missions. The United States ranked second with 273 diplomatic posts.

As China expanded its reach over the past two years, the United States stepped back. Last year, Moscow ordered the United States to close its consulate in St. Petersburg, Russia, following a breakdown of diplomatic relations. The United States has not announced any new posts.

“This diplomatic expansion by China is probably linked to its economic interests in particular,” Lowy research fellow Bonnie Bley told Australia’s Newcastle Herald. France, Japan, and Russia were the next three nations on the list. —O.O.

Associated Press/TVNZ Associated Press/TVNZ Children at a health clinic in Apia, Samoa, last month

Samoa on measles lockdown

Samoa is restricting travel and enforcing other emergency measures as the measles epidemic on the small Pacific island worsens.

Fifty-three people, a majority of them children, have died from the outbreak. Samoa declared a state of emergency last month and shut down schools indefinitely. Since then, the nation has recorded more than 3,700 cases.

Measles has made a global comeback in the United States, Europe, and Africa amid increased rejection of vaccines. The World Health Organization said vaccine coverage on the island was about 31 percent when the outbreak began.

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi said Monday the government will shut down on Thursday and Friday to allow civil servants to participate in a vaccination campaign.

The Rev. Vavatau Taufao, general secretary of the Congregation Christian Church in Samoa, told Reuters that church officials are monitoring the situation: “We are still having church services, but if it gets worse, we will have to stop church altogether—and it’s almost Christmas.” —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by K.M. Chaudary (file) Associated Press/Photo by K.M. Chaudary (file) A Pakistani woman at Catholic Sacred Heart Cathedral in Lahore

Pakistani Christian women at risk

In the first nine months of this year, International Christian Concern documented 34 incidents of abduction, assault, rape, forced marriage, or forced conversion to Islam involving Christian women in Pakistan. Double persecution for faith and gender affected even young girls, including 13-year-old Qari Zahid. A Muslim cleric raped and blackmailed her, according to local activist Iqbal Masih. “He then threatened that he would kill her and her family if she opened her mouth against him,” Masih told International Christian Concern. Multiple attackers, including police officers, raped another Christian woman, too.

In response to sexual violence against Christian women, Open Doors UK sponsored a petition in the form of hand-decorated fabric panels. The organization displayed its “I See You” project, made up of 16,000 fabric squares, at Westminster Abbey in London last month. —Julia A. Seymour

Associated Press (file) Associated Press (file) U.S. President Ronald Reagan (left) and then Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone in Los Angeles, Calif., in January 1985

Former Japanese prime minister dies

Yasuhiro Nakasone, the Japanese leader known for his friendship with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and his push to revise the pacifist constitution, died last week. He was 101.

Nakasone served as defense chief and secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party before becoming prime minister from 1982 to 1987. During that time, he was the country’s first leader to visit South Korea officially, attempting to bridge the rift caused by Japanese colonization from 1910 to 1945. He also sought domestic reforms, privatizing the country’s railway, tobacco, and telecommunications companies.

After retiring from parliament in 2003, Nakasone continued to push for revising his country’s U.S.-drafted constitution, a process that has continued under current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Nakasone also maintained close ties with the United States, a relationship that was later known as “Ron-Yasu” diplomacy. —O.O.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

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