What government and Kenyans should do to reduce impact of floods

Flooded section of the Garsen-Lamu highway, December 8, 2023. [Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]

Kenyans have counted losses due to both drought and floods in most parts of the country. As much as farmers anticipate the onset of the rain season for cultivation of crops, the rainfall patterns have caused destruction of crops, animals and human lives.

According to updates from Kenya's National El Niño Steering Committee, more than 120 people have lost their lives while over 80,000 families have been displaced and are being hosted in 112 camps in the counties affected by floods.

The government has distributed food in 12 counties, namely Mombasa, Kwale, Lamu, Tana River, Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Marsabit, Busia, Kitui, Samburu and Isiolo.

Additionally, the government has set aside Sh625.8 million to benefit 500,000 people in eight counties under cash transfer programme in Turkana, Mandera. Marsabit, Wajir, Samburu, Tana River, Garissa and Isiolo.

The deaths and extreme flood effects could have been avoided if certain measures were put in place.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, land-use planning can reduce the risks associated with floods. Planning can include restricting development in flood-prone areas, and adapting design elements that better handle storm water run-off such as permeable paving materials.

The government needs to invest in water harvesting during the rainy season and to train people to do the same. This will help preserve rainwater to be used for irrigation during dry seasons. By doing this, there will be a reduction in the number of deaths due to hunger during droughts.

Additionally, the government should ensure that the drainage systems in the country are working well to redirect excess rainwater to rivers and away from homesteads and towns.

People residing in urban centres are also affected by floods due to clogged drainage systems, mostly as a result of dumping their household waste. This calls for sensitisation on waste management in homes, schools and hotels as well.

Vacating buildings and avoiding roads that have experienced repeated flooding in the past can reduce future risk.

According to the National Geographic, floods can take hours or even days to occur, giving locals time to get ready or evacuate. Floods can occasionally occur suddenly and with little notice.

People need to be equipped with skills and educated about the dos and don’ts in case of floods. They also need to be taught to make emergency kits to minimise risks and increase their chances of survival in case of abrupt floods.

The United Kingdom National Flood Forum notes that a Flood Emergency Kit, basic supplies for survival if you become displaced from your home, should comprise of emergency cash, you prescription or painkillers for emergency, clean drinking water and food for at least three days, flashlight, and a blanket.

People should also be trained on what to do in case they encounter floods. Basic knowledge like avoiding driving through moving water, barricading your home against flood water and actively listening to updates and alerts on floods from the government is important.

Safe food preservation culture should also be encouraged among locals to ensure that enough food is set aside for the famine periods. The government should also put-up water conservation sites and treatment plants to ensure that people get enough water during the drought season.

According to the National Drought Management Authority, the livestock sector is adversely affected by recurring droughts with the losses from deaths. The government should provide animal feeds to drought-stricken counties.

Needless to say, current floods and droughts are brought about by climate change, which calls for a collaborative effort from all stakeholders to mitigate its effects.