40,000 Displaced, 5 Drown in Western Kenya Floods Disaster
As Landslide disaster victims condemn the Kenya Government for calling off recovery operation
Relief workers estimate that more than 40,000 people have so far been displaced by raging floods along River Nzoia, that flows from the Cherangani Hills near Kitale to Lake Victoria. With over 500 families already rendered homeless, it appears that the flooding disaster in Budalangi Division of Western Kenya is growing worse by the day and relief workers are now bracing themselves for a huge humanitarian operation. Sadly, on Monday morning, five people drowned on the swollen River Nzoia as they were being ferried in a boat to a relief camp and seven others were rescued from the boat immediately after it capsized. The bodies of the drowning victims have not yet been recovered and relatives were still sitting at the riverside by Tuesday evening. Due to worsening sanitary conditions, authorities have issued a public warning for cholera in the area and there is every likelihood that some waterborne diseases may breakout at any time now.
Flooding in the low-lying areas of western Kenya has become a perennial occurrence although dykes have been erected in some areas to keep back water and prevent flooding. The river current is very strong that it has collapsed some dykes while in some areas, the floods have risen above the dykes which are no more than three metres high.
Although the floods have adopted an annual cyclic nature, the disaster always finds the government of Kenya with its pants down and the government’s much talked about National Disaster Operations Centre appears totally ill prepared to deal with this or any other kind natural catastrophe efficiently. Observers say that the NDOC will only achieve its mandate to deal effectively with national disasters when it is sufficiently funded to enable it purchase specialist training and high-tech equipment and also increase its personnel capacity. We only hope that the government will seek to implement a permanent solution to this problem so that residents living along the Nzoia River can live their lives in peace.
Beyond the immediate effects of the flooding, which now include deaths and displacement of a large number of people, as well as damage and destruction of property and critical infrastructure, the floods are expected to impact long-term food security and lead to outbreaks of disease.
Satellite images from the NASA Earth Observatory run by US government shows that the floods have significantly raised the water levels on Lake Victoria.
Meanwhile, at the landslide disaster site, a government co-ordinated joint search and recovery operation for landslide victims in Khusavali village, Kakamega District in the same Western Province , was called off on 16 August with seven people reported dead and one person missing. Residents and some leaders have criticized the government for ending the operation prematurely, but the locals are proceeding with their own recovery operation even as some of them starting to perform traditional cleansing ceremonies at the landslide site.