El Niño in Kenya

El Niño 2016

The El Niño is a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean with a global impact on weather patterns. The phenomenon is associated with extreme floods and higher sea levels in countries near the equator and significant droughts in countries of the Pacific South West.

As of December 2015, 100 people have died as a result of flood related incidents in Kenya. Flooding in Somalia is expected to displace at least 900,000 people and drought in Ethiopia could leave 8 million people in need of food aid. On top of this is the suffering and deaths from malaria and other vector-borne disease escalated by the rains and dramatic weather cycles.

What impact does El Niño have on health?

The El Niño will have a devastating impact in parts of Kenya and Southern Somalia through to early 2016. In 1997, North Eastern Kenya and Southern Somalia experienced the devastating effects of one of the most powerful El Niño-Southern oscillation events recorded in history. North Eastern Kenya has since been increasingly prone to repeated droughts and flooding, leading to epidemics of malaria and dengue. The vast surface water area left by flooding has provided perfect breeding sites for mosquitoes and as these vector breeding sites ramp up, transmission of malaria will parallel this, likely peaking in an epidemic.

All age groups amongst the population will be at risk of infection and the number of severe malaria cases will escalate, putting a huge strain on the health system. Previous floods have resulted in health facilities in the worst affected areas being shut down or abandoned, thereby reducing health care access.

What is MENTOR doing?

Floods are not preventable but epidemics are. MENTOR is taking emergency action to reduce malaria incidence and death rates amongst Kenyans and refugees living in high risk flood areas. In Kenya, MENTOR works in close partnership with the Ministry of Health (MoH) County Health teams in Wajir and Garissa with a fully operational base and active programme in Wajir.

With expertise in vector-borne and tropical disease, the MENTOR team is helping the MoH and partners on the ground implement a more effective and timely malaria epidemic response in the wake of El Niño. MENTOR is ensuring that large scale vector control activities are rolled out in flood risk communities and is rapidly stocking vector control materials, essential diagnostics and medicines. Large scale Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) and larviciding campaigns in identified high risk areas have taken place to control mosquitoes. Technical training of new health and public health personnel is being delivered on site to reinforce differential and confirmatory diagnosis of malaria. MENTOR is also working with the MoH to strengthen weekly reporting of malaria cases to help in the early identification and response to the epidemic.

Read more about MENTOR’s work in Kenya here…