Plan for annual disasters to help vulnerable people and save lives

Submerged plaque erected during the commissioning of Kabonyo Fisheries Aquaculture and Training Center in Kisumu County. [Michael Mute, Standard]

The measure of good governance and great leadership in any country is in how citizens are protected and insulated from harm and insecurity.

Strategies and infrastructure for disaster prevention, management and mitigation support a country’s efforts to cushion, mitigate and facilitate its citizens in recovery.

Flooding is a disaster that has devastated many families and communities. Before the October 2023 relentless rains that caused flash flooding across Kenya, the Metrological Department had warned that we would get prolonged and heavy rains that would continue albeit with a short break from then until end of May 2024.

They even warned against El Niño leading many county governments to set aside budgets and prepare for flooding and its consequences. However, the rains didn’t seem so severe initially and these resources were utilised or reallocated for other priorities only for torrential rains to hit with a vengeance causing untold suffering and devastation.

The rains continue in parts although they have stopped in others but the destructive flooding and its effects continue to ravage many communities with much of roads network, bridges and other infrastructure completely destroyed.

Majority of communities in locations where major dams and rivers have broken banks have suffered greatly with many losing everything including their homes. Hundreds of people have also perished in the floods.

Many farms in these areas have been destroyed and crops damaged to the extent that experts predict another potential crop failure resulting in food security crisis. Most people are unable of dealing with the cataclysmic effects of flooding by themselves and require emergency assistance and short-term and long-term support.

Many schools especially primary and secondary in affected areas are flooded while others had been turned into shelters for affected families, who had to be moved when the schools reopened. While schools have opened across the country, more than 70 primary and secondary schools in affected areas remain closed, yet, the pupils/students in those schools will sit the same national examinations as the rest.

The schools in a terrible state of destruction remain unfit for human habitation creating uncertainty as to when the pupils/students will resume learning. The national and county governments appear to be overwhelmed and are struggling to find durable solutions.

Most communities are yet to fully recover from effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Just when most institutions were recovering, the floods hit hard. Disasters have become a regular occurrence making it necessary for both the national/county governments, relevant institutions and even citizens to have comprehensive disaster preparedness, management, and mitigation strategies and interventions.

We also need to invest sufficiently in structures and community support systems to cushion and insure ourselves and provide those affected adequate social protection. These are actions taken to prepare for and reduce the effects of disasters. 

When they are in place, they help us predict, prevent, and mitigate the impact of disasters on vulnerable populations, and support them in structured and supported recovery.  

Kenya has a multi-sectoral system for disaster preparedness and response such as the National Disaster Operations Centre (NDOC) addressing disaster emergencies through alerting, standing by, activation, and standing down/activation of recovery while the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is helping the national government improve its early warning system and local communities’ ability to respond to disasters.

Efforts to build and sustain resilience for local communities need to be sufficiently funded and interventions made more structured, consistent and sustainable.

We have a national policy for disaster management and institutions established to deal with disasters, which appear to be responding all the time.

Disaster risk prevention, management and mitigation should not only focus on emergency responses but on the continuum prevention, relief and rehabilitation and mitigation. National and county governments must begin anticipating yearly disasters.