Edmontonians rally to help victims of deadly East African floods

As deadly flooding wreaks havoc in East Africa, Edmontonians with relatives living there —  including some who have died or been displaced in the disaster — are looking for ways to help.

The International Rescue Committee says more than 1 million people in Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan have been affected by the high waters from heavy rainfall as another storm makes its way into the region. More than 600,000 people in South Sudan and 273,000 in Somalia have been forced from their homes in a region already reeling from severe drought, the IRC says.

This weekend, Edmontonians from the city’s Somali and Kenyan communities are meeting to plan local fundraising initiatives.

Among them will be Dunia Nur, president of the African Canadian Civic Engagement Council, as her family struggles with the loss of loved ones in the hard-hit central Somali district of Beledweyne.

Dunia Nur says many Somali-Canadians have family who have been affected by the flooding in Somalia. (Andrea Huncar/CBC)

Nur said her mother’s cousins Abdi Qeyloow and Said Khalif, who were community leaders in their twenties, drowned when their boat capsized as they were trying to rescue and get basic necessities to children, women and elders.

“In that process, they ended up being victims,” Nur said in an interview Friday.

“But it’s not just my mom’s family — it’s all the families in Edmonton, Alberta and all over Canada. Their families have been impacted. People directly are receiving the news.”

The World Food Programme is working with the Somali government to distribute food to the most devastated areas, while the IRC begins to provide water and health and sanitation services, the agencies said. 

Humanitarian efforts are being scaled up in South Sudan, where flooding since July has devastated large areas of the war-ravaged country, affecting an estimated 900,000 people, the U.N. says. IRC teams report seeing more people dying of malaria and diarrhea.

Patrick Chieriro says some members of Alberta’s Kenyan community are sending the little money they have to help relatives overseas. (Patrick Chieriro)

Flooding in Kenya has damaged roads and bridges, hampered access to food, education and healthcare, and displaced 14,000 people, the UN says.

Mainly in the north-eastern, central, and coastal regions, the flooding comes after prolonged drought, which saw the number of those facing severe food insecurity rise to 3.1 million, the U.N. said.

The Association of Kenyans in Alberta is meeting this weekend to organize local efforts to respond to the disaster.

Patrick Chieriro, treasurer of the association, said several Alberta families have relatives overseas who are affected.

Local families are sending whatever extra money they have to help, he said.

“The toll it takes is you are stretching a dollar that you did not plan for, to be able to meet a number of these basic needs,” Chieriro said.

“You cannot really be having bread here when you know your brother, your sister, they are not having bread because of a natural [disaster].”

We are facing a lot of challenges because of climate change. It oscillates from very dry to very wet seasons.–  Skitter Mbugua, Minister of Environment, Kisii County, Kenya

Last week, the association hosted Skitter Mbugua, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources of Kisii County, which is not far from some of the flooded areas in Kenya.

She was in Edmonton with a fact-finding team to learn about disaster management response by the Alberta government.

Mbugua said there are reports that about 200 Kenyans have drowned.

Flooding in Kenya has damaged infrastructure, cutting off this road to Kakuma refugee camp. (International Rescue Committee)

“People are looking for food, drugs because of being displaced, blankets to cover themselves,” Mbugua told CBC News Friday, adding that the impact could be felt in counties like hers where displaced Kenyans are looking for help.

“I think we are facing a lot of challenges because of climate change. It oscillates from very dry to very wet seasons.”

The Edmonton African Fellowship is holding prayers throughout the week for the victims of the disaster and their families.

Nur said participants at Sunday’s meeting at Sahaba Mosque will also work on a long-term strategy to help vulnerable people affected by the “constant” emergencies in Somalia, such drought and the devastating bombing in July that killed one of her relatives.

The IRC is urging the international community to mobilize funds and send support. Tropical storm Kyarr, could exacerbate the dire humanitarian situation for some parts of the region, the agency says.

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