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Lives At Stake As Floods Fill Lake Victoria To Record Levels

Heavy rains have been pounding the East African region/Getty Images

East Africa’s Lake Victoria, the continent’s largest freshwater lake, has seen its shores rise to record levels, submerging businesses, homes and threatening thousands of lives and livelihoods.

In Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania the rising waters have forced families to abandon their flooded homes.

In Budalangi, Western Kenya, dozens of families have been left stranded on the swollen shores. Rising water continues to consume the remaining roads and bridges – some now have to cross to safety in wooden dugout canoes, while others carry household items on their heads as they wade through knee-deep water.

Dr Ally-Said Matano of the Lake Victoria Basin Commission said that beyond displacement, the surging water levels also present a massive health risk

“There is an increase in waterborne diseases; malaria, bilharzia are on the rise. And of course this is also aggravated by the fact that we are in the middle of a epidemic,” Dr Matano said.

In the lakeside city of Kisumu nearly 100km (62 miles) further south, tourist spots, hotels, and fishing villages are under water too.

Across the border in Uganda, flooding has raised the lake’s water levels to just under 13.4 metres, a mark last recorded in 1964. Along the shore in Munyonyo and Entebbe, the usually pristine beaches and front yards of some of the most expensive lakeside resorts and residential properties are under water too

The rising lake levels have caused the River Nile water to rise too, leading to chunks of land breaking away from its banks. Last month, a floating island blocked a hydroelectric dam in Jinja, causing a brief nationwide power blackout.

The Nile flows into Lake Kyoga north of the capital, Kampala, which has in turn burst its shores, displacing dozens of families.

The Greater Horn Africa Climate Outlook has predicted higher than normal amounts of rain will continue throughout May.

Lake Victoria is a priceless shared resource for close to 40 million people living across three countries’ borders, now it presents a shared challenge.


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