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Prioritise funding for mitigation against disasters

 People wade through flood waters along the Enterprise Road in Nairobi. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

The ferocity of Mother Nature has hit home. President William Ruto, while acknowledging advisories by the Kenya Meteorological Department and the IGAD Climate Prediction Applications Centre, said the situation might get worse.

For weeks now, Kenya has experienced floods that have so far claimed 210 lives, displaced thousands from their homes, and destroyed infrastructure, including roads, bridges and railways.

The damage witnessed is huge and will have a far-reaching impact on our already battered economy.

While we recognise the enormity of the tragedy visited on our land, the continued kneejerk responses remain our bane.

Ruto, in his State address to the nation on Friday, directed the National Treasury to “provide adequate resources” for mitigation. How that appropriation will be effected, and the amount involved, remain a mystery.

So far, there has been a lack of clear synergy between national and county governments in handling the current flooding crisis.

Towards the end of last year, after the Meteorological Department sounded the alarm over impending El Niño, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua claimed the national government had released Sh10 billion to the 47 counties for preparedness. The Council of Governors refuted the DP’s claim and there has been no clarity on the alleged funding to date.

A few months down the line and we are in the deep end of a deluge because serious matters concerning disaster preparedness were reduced to a ping-pong game. Even as the government scrambles to make amends, there is a need to have a clear road map on handling disasters. This should be reflected in our next budgetary allocations. Some of the intervention measures announced by President Ruto require financial commitment that has so far not been made explicitly.

That is why the under-funded Ministry of Interior—acting on the directive to enforce relocations targeting persons living in landslide-and mudslide-prone areas—could only toss the affected families to the vagaries of weather. The Kenya Defence Forces, the police, and the National Youth Service can only be effective in mitigation operations if sufficiently funded.

It was imprudent for President Ruto to leave the matter of mitigation funding to the whims of the National Treasury. It was also unwise to ask lawmakers to prioritise the reconstruction of damaged schools through the National Government Constituency Development Fund.

Even as the government addresses the issue of funding, we need to guard against opportunists who are out to make a fortune as was the case with Covid millionaires.

The current flooding crisis should be a wake-up call for the nation on disaster preparedness. We need to focus on long-term measures.

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