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Caught between extremes: Understanding human-water interactions during drought-to-flood events in the Horn of Africa
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  • Alessia Matanó,
  • Marleen Carolijn Ruiter, de,
  • Johanna Koehler,
  • Philip J. Ward,
  • Anne Van Loon
Alessia Matanó
VU University Amsterdam

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Marleen Carolijn Ruiter, de
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
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Johanna Koehler
Oxford University
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Philip J. Ward
Institute for Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
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Anne Van Loon
VU Amsterdam
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Disaster risks are the results of complex spatiotemporal interactions between risk components, impacts and societal response. The complexities of these interactions increase when multi-risk events occur in fragile contexts characterized by ethnic conflicts, unstable governments, and high levels of poverty, resulting in impacts that are larger than anticipated. Yet, only few multi-risk studies explore human-environment interactions, as most studies are hazard-focused, consider only a single type of multi-risk interaction, and rarely account for spatiotemporal variations of risk components. Here, we developed a step-wise, bottom-up approach, in which a range of qualitative and semi-quantitative methods was used iteratively to reconstruct interactions and feedback loops between risk components and impacts of consecutive drought-to-flood events, and explore their spatiotemporal variations. Within this approach, we conceptualize disaster risk as a set of multiple (societal and physical) events interacting and evolving across space and time. The approach was applied to the 2017-2018 humanitarian crises in Kenya and Ethiopia, where extensive flooding followed a severe drought lasting 18-24 months. The events were also accompanied by government elections, crop pest outbreaks and ethnic conflicts. Results show that (1) the fragile Kenyan and Ethiopian contexts further aggravated drought and flood impacts; (2) heavy rainfall after drought led to both an increase and decrease of the drought impacts dependent on topographic and socio-economic conditions; (3) societal response to one hazard may influence risk components of opposite hazards. A better understanding of the human-water interactions that characterize multi-risk events can support the development of effective monitoring systems and response strategies.