The clerics are working to ensure that the people can cope with potential deadly floods, mudslides, and displacement associated with the climatic condition. When these have occurred, churches and church institutions have often become centres of refuge and care for affected populations.
Already, heavy rains have hit East Africa. On 18 October, rainstorms struck northwest Tanzania, destroying a Roman Catholic church. Some flooding has also occurred in Somalia, with people, assets, and infrastructure being affected.
Anglican Bishop Daniel Qampicha Wario of Marsabit Diocese in Kenya said the church was sensitising the people on the need to take necessary safeguards in case of the El.Nino rains.
“We are telling them to divert water away from their homes,” Wario said. “We are advising the community to harvest rainwater and also plant food crops on their farms.”
Bishop Johnes Ole Meliyio of the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church said the churches were passing a simple message that there are predictions of extreme rains and safety is necessary.
“We are telling those who are living near rivers to move to higher ground,” he said. “We are telling them to use the heavy rains for their benefits, especially food production.”
El Nino rains fuel tropical cyclones and enhance rainfall across the world. In eastern Africa, its impacts are expected to be felt more in eastern Kenya, southern Ethiopia, and southern Somalia, according to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development Climate Prediction and Application Centre.
A changing condition in the Indian Ocean, known as the Indian Ocean Dipole, is expected to reinforce the heavy rains, according to the organization.
In Kenya, the government is urging preparedness to mitigate impact, save lives, and protect structures. Some county governments have identified churches and schools as possible refuge centres.
At the same time, Jonathan Kapanga, youth and programme coordinator at the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church said they were working with ACT Alliance to develop a preparedness plan.
In Tana River, a riverine region in Kenya’s coastal region where a bursting river bank triggers floods, the denomination has identified churches where people can shelter, according to the official.
“As we look at shelter, we are also assessing how the people will get food and other basic needs. They also need spaces to store their properties," said Kapanga.
In Western Kenya, Anglican Bishop Rose Okeno of Butere Diocese said she was seized on the matter to avoid a repeat of the past painful experiences.
“Those living close to river banks would normally be affected by the floods. In our past experiences we got them relocated to live with relatives. We have built (better) houses for some. We are just hoping it won’t be bad,” said Okeno.
But on the bright side, the clerics and experts are hoping that the climatic pattern will effect increased farm production, ending a prolonged struggle related to food shortages, water, and animal pasture in the country.
“We are urging the people to prepare to harvest water. In the communities, there are water pans or other structures, which need to be prepared for water storage,” said Kapanga.