Articles

The Struggle Against Nature’s Fury-Floods

By Seliphar Machoni

Kenya is facing a recurring and formidable natural force – floods. These floods have caused widespread devastation, displacing communities, destroying livelihoods, and claiming lives. As the nation grapples with this annual crisis, it is critical to examine the havoc wreaked and the government’s proactive efforts to mitigate the impact and safeguard lives.

Understanding the Scale of the Crisis:

Kenya, celebrated for its diverse landscapes and vibrant culture, has experienced seasonal floods in the past. However, in recent years, these floods have intensified and become more frequent due to climate change-induced erratic weather patterns. Various regions across the country, including coastal areas and highlands, have been severely flooded, resulting in extensive damage.

Impact on Communities:

The impact of these floods on Kenyan communities is immeasurable. Thousands of families have been compelled to abandon their homes, seeking refuge in temporary shelters or evacuation centers. The agricultural sector, a vital pillar of Kenya’s economy, has been severely affected with submerged crops and lost livestock. Moreover, access to clean water and sanitary facilities has been compromised, heightening the risk of waterborne diseases, especially among vulnerable populations.

Recently, we tragically lost a long-time activist, “Mama Victor,” to floods in Nairobi County.

In the middle of the night, residents of Mathare were awakened by frantic shouts of “Maji! Maji!”. Torrential rain had triggered extensive flooding across the capital, particularly affecting the overpopulated settlement located in a valley traversed by the Mathare River. The water levels rose abruptly, reaching approximately 35 meters (115 feet), sweeping away hundreds of makeshift homes constructed along the riverbed and submerging thousands more.

Obondo, whose home was located beside “Mama Victor’s”, survived the catastrophe as he happened to be elsewhere at the time. However, his mother, Benna Buluma, a community activist known locally as “Mama Victor,” tragically drowned in the floods.

Reflecting on the events, Obondo shared in an interview with the media, “It is incredibly difficult to make sense of all this.” He further revealed that everyone who was at home during the flood, including Buluma’s two young grandchildren who were with her, lost their lives.

Notably, the children’s fathers, Victor and Bernard, were killed by Kenyan police in 2017. Over the years, Buluma had dedicated her life to pursuing justice for them, along with several other families who had lost loved ones to police violence.

“My mother spent years advocating for justice and rights for the neglected people in slums. Ironically, it was the same neglect from the government that she fought against that ultimately led to her demise,” Obondo expressed, his voice filled with sadness and tears welling in his eyes.”I blame the government for all of this,” he said, referring to the loss and destruction that residents claim they have been left to deal with on their own following the flood.

Government Response:

The Kenyan government has announced the deployment of the military, national police, coastguard, and national youth service to enhance emergency response efforts throughout the country. However, traumatized residents in Mathare, including Obondo, have said that no government officials have come to assist them.

“The government claims they deployed the military and national youth service, and that they are intensifying search and rescue missions, but where are they? It has been a week and I haven’t seen anyone in Mathare. Not a single government representative has come to help us,” Obondo said.

As floods continue to plague Kenya, it is crucial for all stakeholders – government agencies, civil society, the private sector, and the international community – to collaborate synergistically and find resilient, inclusive, and sustainable solutions.

Despite the challenges that lie ahead, it is crucial to maintain determination in facing this existential threat. By taking collective action and remaining steadfast in our commitment, Kenya has the ability to overcome adversity and ultimately emerge stronger.

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