Thousands of families and children displaced due to torrential rains and flooding in East Africa are at greater risk during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the humanitarian group Save the Children.

The organization said severe climate conditions have displaced nearly half a million people, including at least 240,000 children, in Burundi, Rwanda, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, and Tanzania.

“Hundreds of thousands of children and their families have been forced into squalid, overcrowded camps, churches, mosques and schools by rising floodwaters,” the group said in a statement on Friday.

It said cramped temporary living conditions and lack of sanitation facilities have rendered the children and their families more vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Save the Children is gravely concerned about the increased risk to families of contracting COVID-19 and other illnesses due to living in incredibly close confines with limited water and sanitation.”

“As the climate crisis continues to wreak havoc on the region, many weather stations have recorded their highest levels of rainfall in 40 years, damaging homes and destroying water sources, making it impossible for families to practice handwashing or practice social distancing.”

Yvonne Arunga, Save the Children’s operations director for East and Southern Africa, expressed fear that “the current situation is a massive COVID-19 outbreak waiting to happen.”

“This is a rapidly escalating disaster, on top of multiple disasters. With the risk of COVID-19 ever-present, we need to make sure that displaced families have access to basic sanitation, and we need to make sure they’re not living back to back in displacement centers,” she said.

Copyright 2022 Anadolu Agency. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.