Torrential rains have triggered devastating floods and landslides across East Africa in recent weeks, aggravating an already challenging situation as countries in the region battle the coronavirus pandemic.
The destruction caused by the heavy rainfall has killed hundreds of people in Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, Rwanda and Ethiopia and has also forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.
This week, officials in Kenya and Rwanda said nearly 200 and 65 people had died in both countries, respectively, with floodwaters and mudslides destroying houses, washing away bridges and straining critical infrastructure.
On Saturday, Kenyan and Uganda suffered nationwide electricity outages, leaving tens of millions of people without power.
Health experts are worried about the implications of the flooding on the countries' response to the coronavirus pandemic.
"This is compounding the COVID-19 response," Kenya Health Ministry Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman said.
"The displaced people have been forced to congregate in makeshift camps with the risk of banding together exposing them to the possibility of contracting the virus."
Floodwaters also recently swept away most parts of an entire small town in Somalia and swept away roads, bridges and a hospital in Uganda.
Heavy rains flooded areas around Mountain Rwenzori in western Uganda after Nyamwamba River burst its banks, forcing people to seek refuge in nearby schools and destroying roads and bridges, according to officials.
"What complicates the matter is that this is the era of COVID. People are expected to maintain social distance, but how do you maintain distance in such a situation?" Julius Mucunguzi, spokesman for the prime minister's office, was quoted as saying by the Reuters News Agency.
One of the hospitals in the area, Kilembe, was also washed away despite being built on a raised bank and reinforced with sandbags.
"There are wards which were completely washed away. The mortuary was swept away. You wouldn't know that once upon a time there was a mortuary there. The drugs and drug stores were washed away," Mucunguzi said. ■