Floods: Change tack in disaster response

Ibrahim Sheikh Mohamud. [File, Standard]

In the face of heavy rains currently pounding the country, the government is once again fumbling for solutions. The alarm bells have rang. We find ourselves in the same situation every time floods strike.

Four family members perished in Marakwet East in a landslide while in Kitui, a similar number died when a car was swept away at Mutindi River. Mostly in the red, according to Kenya Red Cross Society, were parts of North Eastern, Coastal, Central and Western regions. Shockingly, the script is the same. Each year floods strike, an appeal is tossed, a fund hurriedly set up and the state assures people that everything is in control.

Every year, we take same knee-jerk measures and expect different results. Regrettably, we are out of sync with the environmental reality and the fact that most of our woes are linked to corruption and negative governance ethos.

In northern Kenya, rains caused havoc on humans and livestock, an economic mainstay of residents. The tragic loss of lives and property in affected counties is unimaginable in this day and age, when other regions are enjoying fruits of devolution.

In Wajir, Ms Seynab Maalim Fithow, a mother from Gurar, died in floods and her remains recovered a day later. It is a sad testimony to the horrendous situation our people are now grappling with.

Mr Yussuf Idris, chief of Qarsasare location, survived by a whisker when flashfloods overpowered him on his motor bicycle, as he headed home.

Many Kenyans can no longer effectively fend for themselves and/or their families due to a deadly combination of poor infrastructure, dilapidated schools and hospitals, and a none responsive county government.

To get off this road to ruin, the county and national governments should invest in reliable early warning systems. The impacts of drought can be reduced through sufficient preparedness. It is also vital to sensitise farmers to utilise water from deep aquifers instead of surface water. 

Again, we should triple investments in food production. Projects like Galana Kulalu should guarantee food security. The National Irrigation Board should roll out a better outreach, taking care of the economies of scale.    

It is equally important to address ills that stand in the way of better management of county governments. In Wajir for instance, clan-based politics remain a curse that should be dealt with in good time.

Decisions here are influenced by a poisonous mix of clannism, political lethargy and merciless cartels of corrupt brokers and wheelerdealers, who profiteer from lopsided awards of jobs, tenders and contracts.

The county government has been held hostage by cartels, who undermine structures and institutions of good governance, transparency and accountability.

The county government remains less responsive to suffering of the common man, to the extent that a great sense of exclusion, alienation and marginalisation now pervades large parts of the county which aren’t populated by the politically-correct people.

The common man is then left at the mercy of the Hobbesian state of nature, where life is short, nasty and brutish. As people continue to lose their lives and properties, foot bridges and culverts have been crumbling and collapsing.

Specifically, Buna town, source of livelihood for many families, is inaccessible, deplorable and pathetically marooned. The situation in Wajir North is worrying, with more than 20 towns grossly affected. Hote Dugo and Buna have literally been cut off. Residents have been have been left helpless. Adan Ismail Kulow, the MCA of Bute Ward, drafted a motion of adjournment to draw the attention of the Executive to the deplorable situation on the ground. But no one has taken action.

KCPE and KCSE are commencing shortly, yet there’s no tangible signs that our children will sit these life-changing exams. This is despite the fact that the County Assembly appropriated Sh200 million in the financial year 2019/2020, in August, as emergency budget.

- The writer comments on social and political issues.