How to strengthen public health amid heavy rains

Flooded hut in Walda, Marsabit County. [Fayo Abraham, Standard]

In times of crises, ensuring safety isn’t a choice - it’s an imperative.

The current onslaught of prolonged rainfall and ensuing floods underscores this reality, with devastating consequences reverberating throughout the nation.

Lives lost, infrastructure damaged and communities shattered serve as poignant reminders of the urgent need for concerted action to address multifaced challenges posed by such calamities.

As the roll of the floods continues to mount, reaching a staggering 270 lives lost and leaving a trial of destruction in its wake, it’s evident that safeguarding public health is paramount. The ramifications extend far beyond physical damage, encompassing the insidious spread of waterborne diseases like cholera, typhoid, as well as the psychological toll upon affected communities.

In the face of such adversity, the government under President William Ruto has taken proactive measures to mitigate the impact on citizens’ well-being. Central to these efforts is the Ministry of Health, through the State Department of Public Health and Professional Standards, spearheading relief initiatives aimed at providing essential supplies to affected people. From mosquito nets and water treatment chemicals to nutritional supplements and infection items, prioritising the distribution of these resources is crucial in curbing the spread of diseases ad alleviating suffering among vulnerable people.

The ministry and partners have deployed officers to carry out risk assessment, mainly targeting water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) initiatives especially in Nairobi County. These assessments encompass crucial aspects such as toilets, availability of safe water, waste management, access to health facilities, and monitoring infectious diseases.

Additionally, initiatives including provision of dignity pads and addressing psychosocial needs are prioritised to ensure holistic support to affected communities.

Moreover, we are emphasizing simple yet impactful habits such as handwashing and food safety to protect public health. These habits, when practised diligently, can significantly reduce the risk of waterborne and foodborne illnesses, promoting overall well-being in the face of adverse weather conditions.

Notwithstanding, addressing the public health challenges brought about by heavy rains and flooding demands a comprehensive approach that extends beyond immediate relief efforts.

Public awareness campaigns play a pivotal role in empowering communities to adopt preventive measures against waterborne diseases, while community-led waste management initiatives help mitigate contamination risks and reduce the incidence of vector-borne illnesses.

As the spectra of climate change looms large, efforts to mitigate its impact on public health must be intensified. Investing in climate-resilient infrastructure, promoting sustainable urban planning and advocating for policies that reduce carbon emissions are imperative steps towards building a healthier and more resilient society.

By prioritising environmental stewardship and embracing sustainable practices, we can mitigate the long-term effects of flooding and safeguard public health for generations to come.

In the face of adversity, collective action is paramount. Multi-sectoral approaches and a whole government strategy are essential for effective waste management and promotion of high hygiene standards. Support must be provided to vulnerable populations and those impacted by these challenges. Kenyans must take preventive measures seriously to safeguard their health. Accessing essential services at the nearest health facility or through consultation with community health promoters is crucial.

Let us remain vigilant, follow government guidelines and priorities health and safety.

– The writer is Public Health and Professional Standards PS.

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