Last updated:

2024 East Africa Flooding and Cyclones

Support recovery now

Months of heavy rain due to seasonal monsoons and rainy seasons have led to flooding (both riverine and flash flooding), deaths and displacement in several East African countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Somalia.

At least 1.6 million people have been affected, 473 have died and more than 410,000 have been displaced.

Two cyclones hit the region in May, worsening the flooding and causing more rain, deaths and destruction in Tanzania and Kenya. Cyclones rarely reach this area, but now, twice in a month, record-breaking Indian Ocean cyclones have formed and affected the region.

Generally, cyclones form at least 300 miles away from the equator (or 5˚ latitude north or south). Cyclone IALY transformed from a storm to a cyclone in the South-West Indian Ocean basin at just 4.7˚S, less than 190 miles from Mombasa. It is the most northerly cyclone ever formed below the equator. IALY dissipated on May 22 around 4:00 p.m. local time at 1.4˚south, the strongest cyclone to get that close to the equator in eight years.

While Cyclone IALY stayed more than 90 miles offshore, winds reached the Kenyan Kilifi coastal region on May 21, injuring six people and killing two others, including a four-year-old girl. It is the strongest cyclone to ever get that close to Kenya.

(Photo: Flood damage in town of Mai Mahiu in Nakuru County, Kenya, April 29, 2024. Credit: Kipchumba Murkomen, Cabinet Secretary for Roads, Transport, and Public Works in Kenya via X)

Latest Updates

See all

Key facts
  • According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) as of May 17, 2024:
    • At least 473 people have died. Over half of the deaths (291) are in Kenya, with at least 155 people in Tanzania and 49 people in Uganda.
    • An estimated 1.6 million people were affected, including 560,000 in Ethiopia, 412,760 in Kenya, 239,780 in Burundi, 225,760 in Somalia, 126,000 in Tanzania and 40,000 in Ethiopia.
    • At least 410,000 people were displaced although some have been able to return home because of extended dry spells.
    • Across the region, food, shelter, non-food items, health support and WASH remain significant needs.
Cyclone IALY

The Kenya Meteorological Department said, “The development of Cyclone IALY further north close to Kenya Coast is unusual, largely due to sea surface temperatures along the East African coast surpassing the [80.6˚F] 27°C threshold. This rarity underscores the significance of elevated sea temperatures in influencing cyclone behavior.”

On May 19, the temperature of the surface waters in the Indian Ocean along the Eastern Coast of Africa was 82.4˚F. Similar to Hurricane Otis in the Pacific Ocean in October 2023 and Hurricane Ida in the Gulf of Mexico in August 2021, the rapid intensification of the tropical system was influenced by the warmer water, which is one of the clearest indicators of climate change’s impacts.

Source: Kenyan Meteorological Department

Kenya’s proximity to the equator means the country typically does not experience direct hits but rather may feel the effects of the winds and rain from a cyclone, typically at the strength of a tropical depression.

Even as IALY approached, Tanzanian, Kenyan and Somalian authorities were only warning of a “moderate tropical storm.”

Rainy seasons and drought

Each country has a rainy season with varying dates. For example, the “long rains,” as they are known, occur annually in Kenya and Tanzania from March to May. In Somalia, the Gu rains fall between April and June, with the Deyr rains between October and December. This region is extremely susceptible to climate change, and the El Niño climate pattern has compounded this year’s rains.

Years of drought, which hardened the soil, have also compounded the effects of the rains, increasing the impact of the flooding. River levels are extremely high, and rain risks will continue at least through June in the coastal areas and a couple of weeks longer in the western region.

While some people have been able to return home, many remain in displacement camps or with families. All remain at risk, as the rains continue.

For more information about seasonal weather patterns and the impact of drought and monsoon rains, read this article from Voice of America.

Cyclone Hidaya

Cyclone Hidaya hit the region on May 4, increasing rains and flooding but not causing as much damage in Kenya or Tanzania as feared. It made landfall on Mafia Island on Tanzania’s Mafia Islands Archipelago in the Indian Ocean before quickly dissipating. Two people died in Tanzania because of the cyclone and seven were injured. Additionally, more than 2,000 homes were flooded, damaged or destroyed, and 18,862 individuals were affected.

Hidaya is the strongest cyclone ever to hit Tanzania, according to Africa News. The Tanzanian Meteorological Authority (TMA) reported heavy downpours along the coast on May 4, with over 3.5 inches of rain reported in Mtwara. This is more than twice the amount of rain that typically falls in May.

Internal displacement and refugees

Internal and external displacement is of significant concern to UNHCR as thousands of people have been forced to move, sometimes repeatedly, due to the flooding. This has also meant that displaced people are sometimes forced to share tents increasing risks of communicable diseases and increasing protection risks.

Across the region, more than 400,000 people have been displaced, including some who were already displaced. UNHCR said, “Some of the worst damage has been done in the poorest most congested parts of cities and towns where infrastructure is fragile, drainage inadequate, and homes flimsy, as well as in refugee and displacement camps.”

In Somalia, for example, at least 67 of the 95 verified sites for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Hirshabelle Province have been impacted by the rains, affecting 39,120 people.

A UNHCR spokesperson said that nearly 20,000 people have been displaced in the Dadaab refugee camps, many of them recent arrivals escaping the drought in Somalia.

UNHCR spokesperson Olga Sarrado Mur added that “around 32,000 refugees – nearly half of the refugee population in the country – are living in areas affected by the floods … Nyanza Lac commune in Makamba province, an area that has received 25,000 Burundian refugees returning home from exile in the past few years, is also badly affected.”

Infrastructure damage (including livelihoods)

Local media has reported extensive damage to thousands of homes across the region. While governments conduct assessments to determine the extent of the damage and build camps, affected families have resorted to makeshift shelters or are living in schools or with family and friends.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, reports that rental prices have increased dramatically in Kenya, making it very difficult for people to find a place they can afford.

There has been a significant impact on livelihoods, especially small businesses, pastoralists and agro-pastoralists.

In Kenya, nearly 12,000 livestock have been killed, nearly 48,000 acres of land for crops flooded and more than 1,000 small businesses have been affected.

In Burundi, UNHCR reports that 10% of the farmland has been lost.

The National Disaster Operations Centre in Kenya reported a critical situation with the waterways and dams across the country. All seven of its hydroelectric dams have overtopped, some rivers have exceeded flood stage and some embankments have eroded.

Vulnerable communities

Schools may not be open because of flooding. Additionally, some people are living in schools This means children may have not had access to education for several weeks.

In addition to education, approximately 18% of children are at risk of malnutrition. With disasters often resulting in worse health outcomes, government authorities and humanitarian partners are concerned about the health and nutritional situation of children due to the floods.

The Ethiopian Disaster Risk Management Commission reported that the damage to croplands, housing and public infrastructure – especially roads – has decreased peoples’ access to services. This is worsened by transportation infrastructure that was already in bad shape before the floods, the cholera outbreak and ongoing conflict.

The most vulnerable people in the world are on the frontlines of climate change.

UNHCR said, “As a result, it is the most vulnerable people in the world who are disproportionately affected by flooding and other climate shocks and stresses. This includes refugees and displaced people who lack basic resources, permanent shelters, and robust social safety nets, and may be excluded from government measures to strengthen flood preparedness and resilience. Host communities are also hit hard, especially those living in informal settlements and shantytowns in flood-prone areas where infrastructure such as drainage and wastewater treatment is often inadequate, and homes flimsy.”

Humanitarian aid partners and government officials continue to conduct search and rescue operations as new floods and landslides occur. They are providing immediate life-saving assistance to affected communities. Humanitarian partners have called for the urgent scale-up of multi-sectoral response to address immediate needs.

Immediate needs include shelter, food and non-food items, health care, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and other essential supplies.

Cash assistance

As with most disasters, experts recommend cash donations, which allow on-the-ground agencies to direct funds to the greatest area of need, support economic recovery and ensure in-kind donation management does not detract from disaster recovery needs.

Many people lost everything in the floods. Direct cash assistance allows families to purchase items and services locally that address their multiple needs. It gives each family flexibility and choice, ensuring that support is relevant and timely. Cash assistance can also help move families faster toward rebuilding their lives.

Climate adaptation and mitigation

As with many other recent natural hazards, climate change has played a significant role in the floods. East Africa is particularly vulnerable to more intense climate risks which can have a detrimental impact on the region. Marginalized, displaced and otherwise vulnerable populations in these countries face the biggest impacts from climate change.

Funders can help address these issues by investing in preparedness, mitigation, risk reduction and climate adaptation. It is important that this funding be made available to meet the needs of the most marginalized people.

Critical infrastructure

Extensive clean-up is required for the immediate effects of the flooding. Transportation infrastructure was also affected, and roads and bridges will need repair. The governments have not yet been able to fully calculate the damages, but the losses have been significant.

In addition, the damage to the roads and transportation infrastructure has led to increased prices. It has challenged the ability of governments and humanitarian organizations to carry out both search and rescue and delivery of supplies.

Health care support

During natural hazard events, health care needs may increase and result in the outbreak of diseases, especially waterborne and infectious diseases.

Reduced access to water and sanitation because of damage to water sources and WASH facilities, including latrines, increases the risk of diseases such as cholera. A cholera outbreak was reported in Kenya, with the World Health Organization (WHO) confirming at least 44 new cases attributed to the floods. In Somalia, the floods have worsened the existing cholera outbreak, with WHO reporting it has recorded at least 10,640 cases, including 120 deaths.

As heavy rain and floods have displaced thousands of people and severely affected refugees and already displaced people, humanitarian partners must ensure they can reach affected communities.

This may mean mobile clinics for those on the move or tailored services and assistance that meet the needs and priorities of affected communities. Infection prevention and control and treatment measures need to be prioritized for funding. Additionally, funders can support rebuilding WASH infrastructure and supporting access to hygiene needs to help reduce the outbreaks of water-borne diseases

Long-term recovery

Even as emergency and immediate life-saving aid and assistance are ongoing, setting the foundation for long-term recovery can be crucial. Long-term recovery needs include long-term shelter or rebuilding of homes and community infrastructure, livelihood restoration and economic recovery. Many of the areas affected were already extremely vulnerable because of other hazards, including drought. Progress made toward recovering from recent years of drought has been washed away for many people.

The response to the 2022 Pakistan floods, which devastated large swaths of the country, provided key lessons that promote the need for government and communities to collectively engage in clear priorities, such as rebuilding livelihoods and buildings for long-term recovery.

Protection

After a disaster, protecting vulnerable individuals and ensuring access to their basic rights are immediate priorities. Gender-based violence, including sexual assault and trafficking of vulnerable populations, and the protection and security of children are often a concern.

Rebuilding and reconstruction of homes

Where possible, rebuilding should focus on building more resilient homes and buildings, improving the quality of construction and investing in flood-resistant repair techniques.

Funders can assist by providing support to affected refugee and IDP camps, addressing temporary living situations, and rebuilding homes.

 

CDP has a Global Recovery Fund that provides an opportunity for donors to meet the ongoing and ever-expanding challenges presented by global crises. Select “East Africa Floods and Cyclone” from the dropdown menu.

Support recovery now

Contact CDP

Philanthropic contributions

If you have questions about donating to the CDP Global Recovery Fund, need help with your disaster-giving strategy or want to share how you’re responding to this disaster, please contact development.

(Photo: Kenyan President William Ruto visited Ngeya Girls Secondary School in Mai Mahiu, Nakuru County, Kenya to survey damage and console families affected by flash flooding, April 30, 2024. Credit: William Samoei Ruto via X)

Recovery updates

If you are a responding NGO, please send updates on how you are working on recovery from this disaster to Tanya Gulliver-Garcia.

We welcome the republication of our content. Please credit the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Philanthropic and government support

The Kenyan government announced a billion shillings package ($7.5 million) to rehabilitate almost 2,000 schools affected by the floods.

The Kenya Red Cross quickly mobilized through prompt emergency responses, search and rescue missions, and the distribution of shelter kits and essential supplies. As of May 14, almost 30,000 non-food water, health and sanitation (WASH) kits were distributed and reached almost 11,500 people through health outreaches.

The Emergency Relief Coordinator allocated $3 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to scale up flood responses and the provision of immediate life-saving assistance to 150,000 people.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) approved an additional allocation of CHF 250,000 ($275,000), which is the fourth allocation for the Tanzania Floods and Landslides Emergency Appeal. The total loan for the appeal now stands at CHF 750,000 ($825,000). The IFRC and its membership are seeking CHF 4 million (about US $4.4 million) to support the Tanzania Red Cross Society to reach 75,000 people with life-saving assistance.

More ways to help

CDP has also created a list of suggestions for foundations to consider related to disaster giving. These include:

  • Take the long view: Even while focusing on immediate needs, remember that it will take some time for the full range of needs to emerge. Be patient in planning for disaster funding. Recovery will take a long time and funding will be needed throughout.
  • Recognize there are places private philanthropy can help that government agencies might not: Private funders have opportunities to develop innovative solutions to respond to and help prevent or mitigate future disasters that the government cannot execute.
  • All funders are disaster philanthropists: Even if your organization does not work in a particular geographic area or fund immediate relief efforts, you can look for ways to tie disaster funding into your existing mission. If you focus on education, health, children or vulnerable populations, disasters present prime opportunities for funding.
  • Ask the experts: If you are considering supporting an organization that is positioned to work in an affected area, do some research. CDP and InterAction can provide resources and guidance about organizations working in affected communities. The Council on Foundations provides Country Notes for countries to help foundations understand giving requirements, laws and regulations in various countries.

Fund resources

See them all

Floods

Floods

Flooding is our nation’s most common natural disaster. Regardless of whether a lake, river or ocean is actually in view, everyone is at some risk of flooding. Flash floods, tropical storms, increased urbanization and the failing of infrastructure such as dams and levees all play a part — and cause millions (sometimes billions) of dollars in damage across the U.S. each year.

Monsoon Seasons

Monsoon Seasons

While often thought of as long-term heavy rain over a specific area, a monsoon is actually the name for a seasonal change in the direction of the prevailing winds. It can bring either extremely wet or extremely dry weather to an area.

Hurricanes, Typhoons and Cyclones

Hurricanes, Typhoons and Cyclones

Hurricanes, also called typhoons or cyclones, bring a triple threat: high winds, floods and possible tornadoes. But there’s another “triple” in play: they’re getting stronger, affecting larger stretches of coastline and more Americans are moving into hurricane-prone areas.