The plight of mothers in camps…

Some of the mothers and their babies queue to receive equipment and food aid at the Garashi camp where they have been living after being displaced by floods in April, located Marafa area of Magarini Sub County in Kilifi County. [PHOTO: NANJINIA WAMUSWA/STANDARD]

Heavy clouds hang over a camp with tens of makeshift tents in Marafa, Magarini sub-county, Kilifi County.

Inside one of the tents, Nyevu Gwaride sits on a jerrycan, cuddling her one-week-old baby.

The imminent downpour adds to her agony, as floods forced her into the camp which she has called home for seven months now. Gwaride and other families vacated their homes after they were marooned by floods during the April-June rains.

“Words cannot explain what I have gone through in this camp and the suffering I have had to endure. Living and giving birth in the camp is so far my worst experience in life,” she says. 

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Since her home in Mikuyuni is prone to floods, Gwaride had high hopes their stay in the camp was not going to be long before the government resettles them at a safer place.

While a majority of families have left the camp, she is among the few who remained behind.

Water sipped in

Senior Chief Garashi Location Ndundi Chula Ndundi recalls that at the height of the floods, families were evacuated and moved to four camps: Masindeni accommodated 820 households, Kizuine 340, Garashi Secondary 379, and Singwaya 108.

“A number of people returned to their homes after the rains subsided. Others from areas prone to floods are being assisted by the government to build new homes,” says Mr Garashi. The senior chief explains that the government has been giving families about Sh80,000 to construct houses in safer places. “Those of us who do not have money to buy land in safer places are still here,” says Gwaride.

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She recalls the fateful day when flood waters burst into their house at around 4am on April 25. “We woke up and we were shocked to find that flood water had flowed into the house. We left immediately without picking anything,” she says. 

After trekking for almost two hours, they arrived at the camp. But that was the begging of her tribulations.

She spent the first night inside a makeshift tent covered with leaves. On the second day, humanitarian organisations came to their aid and provided them with tents and foodstuffs.

A week later, Gwaride fell ill and complained of stomach pains. She was rushed to the nearby Garashi dispensary. “I was told I had taken contaminated water. Fortunately, l was treated and I recovered fully,” she says. 

From sleeping in a comfortable bed with a mattress, to spending nights on hard and wet ground, it was agonising for the families. The camp was crowded, lacked clean water and food, and most people had no clothing. Mosquito nets were distributed later following intervention by several organisations. When she went into labour, Gwaride was taken to Garashi dispensary and returned with her newborn baby to the deplorable living conditions at the camp. 

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The stagnant water around the camps have become breeding grounds for mosquitoes and expose families to malaria, especially children and expectant women. The camp received tens of breastfeeding mothers and pregnant women.

Dama Chengo who has a two-and-a-half-year-old baby worries about the possibility of a disease outbreak in the crowded camp. 

“For months, we lived on relief food, which included maize, beans and rice. At times, we had nothing to eat. It was so depressing and quite difficult to cope with the agony of hungry children?” She explained.

Philip Kimeu Muoki, the World Vision project officer in charge of water; and the construction officer for Marafa, says the camp had 200 children below the age of five; while at least 20 babies were born in the camp.

“They were crowded without adequate basic water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, making the camp a breeding ground for waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea, dysentery and cholera, which could easily ignite an outbreak in the county if not tackled effectively,” says Muoki.

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To prevent an outbreak, Muoki says they distributed portable household water filters, community water filters, emergency mobile toilets and water tanks with hand-washing facilities.

They also provided foodstuff, storage containers, soap, tents, mosquito nets and water treatment products.

“In conjunction with the government, we carried out public awareness campaigns aimed at encouraging residents to adhere to hygienic practices such as using toilets, drinking clean water and washing hands with soap,” he says.

MarafaKilifi CountyMothersCampsRefugees