• Meteorological director Dr David Gikungu said although the El Niño weather pattern is here, probability of heavy rains depends on the Indian Ocean Dipole and local factors.
• WHO said East Africa is already facing one of the worst cholera outbreaks in years, and one of the longest ever recorded in the region.
Lakes in the Rift Valley could swell even further this year, bringing diseases such as cholera and malaria, a new advisory suggests.
The World Health Organization, which released the advisory, referred to global El Niño forecasts that suggest heavy rains in southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya from October.
The organisation said the resultant floods could also swell Lake Victoria.
“If rains in October-December are above average over the Lake Victoria basin, the level of the lake would increase further, resulting in river overflows downstream, causing population displacement, as well as localised crop and livestock losses,” WHO said.
WHO also said East Africa is already facing one of the worst cholera outbreaks in years, and one of the longest ever recorded in the region.
“Heavy rainfall and flooding, often leading to increased water contamination, will likely exacerbate and further prolong this outbreak in many countries,” WHO noted in the latest 'Public Health Situation Analysis'.
“Flooding will also provide ideal conditions for mosquito multiplication and the emergence and/or exacerbation of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) and malaria later on in 2023,” it added.
Director of Meteorological Services Dr David Gikungu said although it is clear the El Niño weather pattern is here, the probability of heavy rains in Kenya depends on the Indian Ocean Dipole and local factors.
The director said the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is currently neutral but is projected to become positive from August to December. This means Kenya is likely to have enhanced rainfall.
A positive IOD comes when the Indian Ocean waters along East Africa are warmer than normal.
“A positive IOD is associated with above-average rainfall in Kenya during the OND season. The IOD is currently neutral and is projected to become positive in August and remain positive in September and throughout the OND season,” Gikungu said.
In 2020 in Baringo, more than 30,000 people were displaced and schools, hospitals, roads, beach hotels, farms and homes were submerged after Lake Baringo overflowed its banks and water spread rapidly.
Thousands of people living near lakes Nakuru, Bogoria and Elementaita were also displaced by the water bodies.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Health said Kenyans in eight counties could access free cholera vaccinations beginning this week to protect them during the El Niño rains.
Health PS Mary Muthoni said the vaccinations, which began on Thursday, would continue for 10 days.
Cholera outbreaks are usually higher in Kenya during heavy rains.
“By working together, we can raise awareness, educate the public, and unite in our efforts to win the war against cholera, especially with the fears of the expected El Nino rains,” Muthoni said.
She said at least 11,181 Kenyans have fallen sick with cholera since October last year and 196 of them died.
Muthoni said the Ministry of Health has so far secured 1,533,199 doses of the Oral Cholera Vaccine for the exercise.
The vaccine offers protection for six months only.
“Because of the El Niño that may happen in September, you realise it is going to be very wet and there is going to be probably water that is flowing and it would be important that we get prepared,” the PS said in a speech by deputy director general of health Dr Sultani Matendechero.
The current exercise, which is in its the second this year, will target Homa Bay (Suba South), Kajiado (Kajiado East), Marsabit (Moyale), Nairobi (Kamukunji and Embakasi Central), Wajir (Wajir North), Mandera (Mandera East), Machakos and Garissa.
Muthoni said the first round of vaccinations n February reached 2.2 million people aged above one year in Nairobi, Garissa, Tana River and Wajir counties.
El Niño events are typically associated with increased rainfall in Kenya.