Since October 2019, torrential rains have caused rivers to rise throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Republic of Congo (RoC), which has led to flooding in 16 of the 26 provinces of the DRC, and 8 out of 12 departments of RoC, with the areas bordering the rivers Ubangi, Congo and their tributaries especially affected.
Rains continued throughout November and December, causing additional floods, landslides and displacing hundreds of thousands of people. The most affected provinces in DRC are Nord-Ubangi, Sud-Ubangi, Mongala, Equateur, and Tshopo, and the most affected in RoC are Likouala, Cuvette, Plateaux and Brazzaville.
In the DRC, government figures in mid-December reported over 923,000 people affected by the floods. These populations are subject to severe deprivations as a result of the disaster. Many have partially or completely lost their homes and property, as well as livelihoods, crops and agricultural land. The displaced population has relocated into homes of other families, public places (schools) or makeshift shelters, some of which are also affected by the floods. Water points and latrines in flooded areas were damaged; the risk of waterborne diseases has increased due to overflowing latrines, poor hygiene conditions and lack of access to safe water. These floods affect populations that already face multiple vulnerabilities including insecurity, poverty and difficulties to access basic services. Hospitals, schools and other public buildings were flooded, and in some cases have collapsed. In addition, these same populations were already vulnerable to epidemics (measles, cholera, malaria) and consistently face food insecurity. As the rains continue, there are fears that the situation will worsen and lead to a potential large scale expansion of the current cholera outbreak than is already occurring in the DRC. Further, many of the affected areas also are host to refugees from the Central African Republic and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Based on the assessments, which have already taken place by the DRC RC and other humanitarian partners, the immediate needs of the affected population identified include: emergency shelter, first aid, household items (blankets, cooking utensils, mats, mosquito nets, soap, hygiene kits (for women of childbearing age), environmental sanitation (cleaning canals, pipes to allow water to flow more easily) and promoting hygiene.
In the RoC, the United Nations estimated in December that approximately 170,000 people are affected in Likouala, Cuvette and Plateaux departments alone2 . The Congolese government declared a state of disaster and appealed for international assistance on 20 November 2019. The UN and Government of Congo have been conducting assessments since mid-December. Initial assessments indicate that many villages along the rivers are completely under water, 3 and flood waters are not receding. Schools, health facilities and homes are only accessible by boat; most water points and sanitation facilities are no longer functioning. The affected populations have needs in a broad range of sectors that include non-food items, shelter, clean water and sanitation. In addition, crops and livestock were destroyed or lost in the floods, leading to anticipated food shortages in the coming months. During the week of 7 January, heavy rains resulted in additional damage in the capital of the Republic of Congo, with major infrastructure collapsing and people using boats to travel the streets.
The increased and erratic rains from October to December are part of a pattern of erratic rainfall across Africa that has resulted in both floods and droughts throughout the continent. The sea surface temperature patterns in the Indian Ocean which are causing the enhanced rainfall in East Africa and suppressed rainfall in southern Africa (the Indian Ocean and Subtropical Indian Ocean Dipoles, respectively), 4 have been linked to climate change. 5 As the rainy season continues through January, the situation likely will deteriorate further with expected new heavy rains in the already affected areas in the coming weeks.