Ethiopia – Over 180,000 Displaced by Floods in Gambella Region

Over 180,000 people have been displaced from their homes by floods in the Gambella Region in western Ethiopia. Meanwhile flooding in the neighbouring country of South Sudan has now affected over 1 million people.

Floods in Unity State, South Sudan, October 2022. Photo: UN Peacekeeping

Gambella Region, Ethiopia

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) heavy rain from early August to October caused flooding across 12 woredas (districts) and in the regional capital (Gambela city) in Gambella Region, Ethiopia.

Homes, water infrastructure and health facilities have been destroyed, along with wide areas of crops and livestock.

At least 185,200 people (37,040 households) were displaced and an additional 79,631 people (15,927 households) affected.

The displaced people are in dire situation, taking refuge in substandard and overcrowded shelters such as schools and health facilities or out in the open air. Lack of food has left many relying on wild plant leaves and roots to fill the food gap, the UN said.

Water supply schemes are damaged and/or contaminated by flood waters. Of 917 water schemes in 10 affected woredas, 270 are not functional and require maintenance.

At least 77 health facilities are affected by the floods across the 12 woredas, leaving the population in these areas without access to health services. There is high risk of water-borne diseases outbreak due to stagnant water and poor hygiene and sanitation, the UN said.

Meanwhile, at least 135 schools (99 primary and 36 secondary) were affected by flooding, affecting the education of 56,006 children.

Large parts of Gambella Region are prone to perennial river and flash flooding. The major rivers, Akobo, Alworo, Baro (Openo) and Gilo and their tributaries, often burst their banks during the rainy season and flood communities along the riverbanks, causing loss of life and livelihoods, displacing people and leading to waterborne diseases, OCHA explained.

Elsewhere in the country, the UN reported an outbreak of cholera in the Bale Zone of Oromia Region and the Liban zone, Somali region. As of 25 October 2022, 273 cholera cases have been reported including 9 deaths.

South Sudan

The region borders parts of South Sudan which is also experiencing severe flooding. The UN recently reported over 1 million people were affected by flooding in 36 counties across South Sudan, including 67,409 in Jonglei and 140,107 in Upper Nile, the two states immediately along the border with Ethiopia’s Gambella Region.

Other impacted areas in South Sudan include: Northern Bahr el Ghazal (252,000 affected); Western Bahr el Ghazal (9,000); Lakes (69,000); Warrap (208,133); Western Equatoria (111,403); Unity (123,966) and Abyei Administrative Area (21,744).

An estimated 7.76 million people in South Sudan are likely to face extreme hunger and malnutrition in 2023 according to a report by UNICEF. The report blames a combination of conflicts and climate shocks.