UN warns of Kenya disease outbreaks after devastating floods

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The United Nations has warned of disease outbreaks following devastating flooding in Kenya, as aid workers struggle to reach thousands of people in need of shelter after weeks of torrential rains.

More than 100 people have been killed and over 250,000 have been forced from their homes by the heavy rainfall since March, the majority of which hit Tana River, Kilifi and Mandera counties.

“The major humanitarian concern, beyond the displacement, is disease outbreaks, particularly cholera and chikungunya, a mosquito-borne disease,” Jens Laerke, the spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told reporters in Geneva on Friday.

He said there had been almost nearly 3,000 cholera cases, including 55 deaths, by the end of April in Kenya, which had suffered from three failed rainy seasons.

Laerke also warned that flooding would exacerbate cholera outbreaks and increase the risk of vector-borne diseases, which also include malaria and dengue fever.

‘Consumed villages and lives’

The Red Cross appealed on Friday for $5m to fund its emergency operations and help those affected by flooding, which has washed away bridges and homes.

Since early March, “112 people have lost their lives countrywide”, Abbas Gullet, secretary-general of the Red Cross, said on Friday, adding that some 20,000 animals had been washed away.

“About 48,177 households have been displaced so far and this translates to 260,200 people,” Gullet added.

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from the River Tana, said the flooding had “consumed villages and lives”.

Further along, on a remote shoreline in Hewani, scores of marooned people waited for days for help to arrive.

The need for help is urgent, said Simmons, who travelled to the area with one of the relief teams delivering food rations and enough aid to provide basic shelter.

“I have been here for three days waiting for this help,” Ibrahim Umar Elma, a displaced farmer, told Al Jazeera.

“I haven’t received anything. There’s no way I can wait any longer – I need it now.”

Hassan Mousa of the Kenyan Red Cross said people such as Elma have “all the right” to complain but “we can only help where we can.”

“We are asking more people to come and help us so we can reach more people,” he added.

Safina Hassan Nuria is a mother of eight who lost her home and all her livestock to flooding.

“I am scared about my children,” she told Al Jazeera. “They’re hungry, they’re exposed to the rains and because of that we’re likely to fall sick.”

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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