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Torrential Rains Continue to Devastate Kenya


Flooding in Sudan between June and August this year has killed over 100 people and left thousands homeless. The United Nations released $5 million Wednesday to help Sudanese victims, but as Caroline Sawyer reports from Kenya, torrential rains continue to cause massive destruction throughout the East African region.

As the flood waters across Sudan's eastern region begin to subside, the World Health Organization is reporting that cholera, an acute intestinal infection, has killed 53 people and left 700 more ill. Cholera is caused by ingesting contaminated water or food, and the rains, by causing latrines to overflow into the water supply, is creating ideal conditions for the disease.

In Kenya, the heavy rains caused a landslide last week killing 19 people in the western village of Malava. Rescue operations are continuing there but work is slow because more landslides are feared.

Rains are expected across East Africa at this time of year, but according to analysts, the rains this year are much heavier than normal.

The assistant director of forecasting at Kenya's Meteorological Department, Peter Ambenje, says the problems cannot be blamed on climate change.

"In the last couple of weeks we have been seeing the kind of weather patterns that normally serve [happen] during this period, that is June, July, August, and this is what we call our cold season, and it is the same period that we get another rainfall peak," said Ambenje.

Environmentalists in the region say they believe that floods are becoming more common and destructive because of deforestation. As East African populations increase, more trees are being cut down to make charcoal, the main fuel used for cooking.

The vice chairman at the Kenya Forest Society, Wambugu Wamahiu, says action has to be taken immediately to protect soil from being washed away during the rainy seasons.

"The way we can prevent this is by planting more trees that will create a cover above the soil and as the [leaves fall they break] down into humus and the humus is the one that improves the quality of the soil in terms of holding moisture," said Wamahiu. "So what happens is that the volume of the water for the entire year is more or less controlled because the moisture is held over a very long time."

Kenyan Nobel Peace Prizewinner Wangari Mathaai has urged African women to plant trees as part of a long-term approach to ending poverty in Africa. She has encouraged the women of Kenya to plant over 30 million trees throughout the country.

Weatherman Peter Ambenje says that in the coming weeks East Africans will not be able to plant trees.

"In the western parts of the [region], in Kenya for example, and even extending into Uganda, the rainfall is anticipated to continue," said Ambenje. "The intensity might not be as high as what we have seen in the last few days but we are still in the rainfall season in those areas. "

Analysts predict that more rain will also mean an increase in malaria cases in the region because the disease is spread by mosquitos who breed in stagnant water.