Western Kenya Flood Menace is Back
The perennial flooding menace in Western Kenya is here with us again and it has as always found the country sitting on its laurels. Lack of disaster preparedness has remained one of Kenya’s enduring development challenges for decades.
The Western Kenya floods are coming after the devastating landslide in Kakamega hardly a week ago and residents of Budalangi are on the receiving end once again, this time escaping from an enemy they know so well. As usual, the worst hit areas are Budalangi in Western Province.
According to World Meteorological Organisation, the flooding menace in Kenya each year is known to destroys homes, schools, social amenities, property and basic infrastructure such as roads, bridges and dykes. In addition, thousands of people are forced to flee their homes while loss of human and animal life through drowning and from lightning has been reported in the past. The floods pose a serious threat to food security and public health because farmland is usually sub-merged and food stores damaged. Flash floods also damage water supply pipes and have caused landslides in higher areas leading to loss of life, massive soil erosion and damage to river banks and water-supply pipes.
Although Kenya has a National Disaster Operation Centre, most of the disaster response initiatives have tended to be unplanned, unco-ordinated and short-term measures mainly in the form of emergency relief services to the worst affected areas. It will not be suprising to witness government appealing for aid and calling the flooding disaster an ‘act-of-god’, yet the flooding is to be expected every year.
In the US, it has been reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is now being given greater access to images from spy satellites, whereby the sat-images will be used to boost national security, disaster response and law enforcement. Other countries, especially in severe flood prone areas have put in place flood forecasting systems that deliver up to ten days flooding forecasts to people living on floodplains to be evacuated and take precautionary measures. Why not Kenya?
The international demands for flood forecasts have changed from a simple meteorological indication of the likelihood of flooding to an accurate prediction of magnitude and timing. And that is one way the government can shift its disaster preparedness focus to. Currently, the Ministry of State for Special Programmes is in charge of development of risk reduction measures and disaster management in Kenya. The ministry has to formulate a sustainable flood management action plan for Budalangi Division that will reduce the impact of flood disaster in the area. This will be a serious challenge to Kenya as a 3rd world country, but it is a challenge that been well tackled in other 3rd world countries.