Agony of Kano, Budalang’i residents ravaged by floods

Monday, May 22nd, 2023 00:05 | By
Agony of Kano, Budalang’i residents ravaged by floods
Residents of Nyando in Kisumu county, affected by floods carry non-food items donated by Red Cross to cushion them while in camps of internally dissplaced persons PD/Viola Kosome

Josephine Akinyi, an 80-year-old grandmother wipes her face with a torn handkerchief as she stares at the thick clouds gathering in the skies.

While others from different parts of the country view the clouds as a blessing and a potential for good agricultural returns, Akinyi reads gloom, suffering, hunger and a prolonged stay at Rukhala evacuation camp in Bunyala, Busia county.

She is among thousands of families who have been forced to vacate their homes after raging floods displaced them and condemned them to a dog’s life in evacuation camps.

In the camps, even getting a single meal is a dream that only a few families can afford each day as others struggle with the misery floods and backflow of Lake Victoria has condemned them to.

From a distance, one can easily tell the pain Akinyi is enduring even before uttering any word to her. She has lost her home, her crops and her crucial documents and that of her grandchildren to floods. “It has not been easy for me. I lost my home and everything that was in it as a result of the floods. My crops were also swept away by the floods,” she explains.

Despite being frail, she spends a few days to walk a long distant from the camp to areas that are not affected by floods to weed for farmers in exchange to a few coins. However, her age cannot allow her to work for several hours. “At the camp, it is very difficult to get food unless a well-wisher like Red Cross Society comes to our aid. Getting clean water for drinking is also a huge challenge and the risk of a disease outbreak always hangs in the air for us,” she explains.

She explains that she sleeps hungry some days even as she continues to pray that the water levels will reduce to enable her go back to her home to pick up the pieces.

Destroyed by floods

But she is not alone, a few meters from her tent, another woman is also struggling to get used to life at the camp. Mary Barasa, a widow, moved to the camp in early March after heavy rains displaced her from her home. “I have two young children and at times it is extremely cold at night at the camp. It is also not easy to find food. The food I stored in my home was all destroyed by the floods,” she explains.

Barasa says that she has been forced to undertake sand mining to help raise money to feed her children at the evacuation camp she now calls home.

Every day, she leaves the two children aged four years and six years at the camp to look for food. Humanitarian crisis at the camp has forced several families to look for alternatives means of survival.

Data from Kenya Red Cross indicates that about 894 households have been relocated to different evacuation centres as a result of the flooding in Busia County.

Further assessments has revealed that a large number of shelters that have been hosting other families who were displaced by the backflow of Lake Victoria have also been damaged and others left submerged in water making them inhabitable.

From the assessment 300 houses in the Sub County reported underground water seepage making the shelters uncomfortable dwelling places. The region is enclaved between River Nzoia, River Yala and Lake Victoria, thus worsening the flood situation.

According to Hellen Cheruto who is the regional manager in charge of West Kenya, the community’s source of livelihood has been greatly affected as they majorly depend on agriculture and fishing. “With most of the farms submerged in water and their fishing gear lost due to strong currents their economic ability has also been affected. The flood water also swept away livestock leading to loss of income from sale of milk products,” said Cheruto.

Completely submerged

In Nyando, more than 2,000 households have also been forced to contend with a humanitarian crisis after they moved to camps to escape from the floods.

At least 12 villages in Kakola Ombaka sub-location are completely submerged in water and forced households to seek shelter at temporary evacuation centers and schools.

Most of the camps are in a sorry state and devoid of basic amenities and food stuffs which has condemned families to hunger and lack of medication.

About 1,500 families have pitched tent at Nyamasao evacuation camp. The camp is crowded and it is a puzzle how the families manage to contend with the situation at the camp.

When People Daily visited the camp, a number of elderly men were sitting outside with puddles of water under their feet as they basked in the mid-morning sun.

One of them, Joash Okumu claimed that he was struggling with headache and cold but is unable to travel to a health facility because it is far away. “The health centre that normally serves us was submerged in floods and is not working. It is not possible for me to walk up to Bunde dispensary which is very far away from the camp,” he explains.

Boniface Otieno, the chief of Kanyagwal sub-location said that the flood situation is worse than the ones they have witnessed in the recent past.

“We are living as nomads and it is very unfortunate. The situations at the camps is also very dire. Most families lack basic commodities,” he explains.

Last week, Kenya Red Cross Society donated utensils, two blankets to each affected person, trampoline, water bottle, nets, carpet among other items to the displaced families.

 In Ogenya and Ombaka area within Nyando sub-county 1118 and 1254 households received the humanitarian support from Red Cross.

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