Residents use tyre tube to cross dangerous River Nzoia

River Nzoia has no bridge which inspired Patrick Wafula (right) and his friends to come up with a tube floater which they use in transporting goods and persons across the river for a small fee. However, residents of Likuyani and Kiminini sub-counties have called on leaders to intervene and put up a bridge which will connect the two. [Photo: Chrispen Sechere]
Residents of Kakamega and Trans Nzoia have asked the two counties to put up a bridge across River Nzoia.

The original bridge, known as Mfunje that connected the two counties at Likuyani and Kiminini sub-counties, was washed away six years ago.

According to Patrick Wafula, since the bridge was washed away, more than five people have died while crossing the river.

Mr Wafula, 30, has been helping women and children cross the river.

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“Women and children would often slip into the river while crossing. I decided to help them cross by ferrying them on an inflated tyre tube, for which they pay between Sh20 and Sh50,” he said.

Despite this, the river is still a nightmare for children who are often forced to skip classes or take shelter in their relatives’ homes once the river bursts its banks whenever it rains heavily.

"When there are floods, they are forced to travel all the way to Moi’s Bridge to cross the river," he said.

Wafula said whenever the tyre tube gets punctured in the waters, he swims across the river towing his passenger.

The most affected areas are Mwiba village in Likuyani and Waitaluk in Kiminini sub-counties.

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Residents are now appealing to the two county governments to join hands and build a bridge.

Charles Ihiro, a local, said business between the two counties had greatly been affected by lack of a bridge.

“We had children who used to cross this river to go to school in either of the counties, but we have been forced to transfer them to different schools after the bridge collapsed,” Ihiro noted.

Mercy Ndeto, 70, said lack of a bridge had affected family interactions.

“I do not see my grandchildren as much as I would like to because an old woman like me cannot cross the river using a tyre and my grandchildren cannot visit me often because they cry all the way for fear of falling into the water,” she said.

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Jonathan Angolio, a businessman, who travels to Kakamega daily, says crossing the river at night is most precarious.

“Crossing the river at 10pm is very risky. The darkness makes navigation difficult and one has to contend with the possibility of meeting hippos and other dangerous animals in the water. God is the only one protecting us,” he said.

Mr Angolio said until another bridge was constructed, the region would continue to lag behind in development.

Good relations

“The two counties need good relations to encourage development, attract investors, educate children and renovate health centres. This can only be realised by having a bridge since more than 100 families depend on the crossing as the easiest mode of access to the nearest town,” he said.

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He added: “Sometimes people lie on the floating tube in a swimming position and use their hands to paddle. We risk our lives each time we do this.”

He said people opt to take the risk because crossing the river is shorter than using the road.

“It is just 35 metres across the river on the floating tube but 56km by road. Locals have no other way to get to school, hospital or the market faster and therefore end up endangering their lives,“ he said.

KakamegaTrans NzoiaRiver NzoiaMfunjePatrick Wafuladangerous river