Country braces for the worst of next month’s El Nino rains

Wednesday, September 27th, 2023 04:52 | By
An excavator unclogs drainage at River Miriu within Nyando sub-county in preparations for the El Nino weather phenomenon that are set to begin early next month. PHOTO/Viola Kosome
An excavator unclogs drainage at River Miriu within Nyando sub-county in preparations for the El Nino weather phenomenon that are set to begin early next month. PHOTO/Viola Kosome

It is 9am and a group of seven women are busy preparing breakfast at a makeshift evacuation camp at an abandoned school at Kakola-Ombaka Sub-location in Nyando, Kisumu.

A few meters away from the school, an excavator is busy unclogging a trench and heaping soil on a flat area to protect the school from floods. The move is part of an elaborate effort to prepare the flood-prone area for the impending El Nino rains predicted by the country’s meteorological department.

One of the women, Beatrice Anyango sighs as she glances at the excavator. For the last two years, the old Ombaka Secondary which was abandoned due to floods has been her temporary home.

This is after the destructive 2019 floods and backflow of Lake Victoria destroyed several homes, forcing hundreds of families to seek refuge in temporary shelters.

Now, however, with the forecast of the possibility of El Nino rains in October, hundreds of families are running against time to prepare for the rains. While the few who had returned to their homes have started moving their belonging to safe areas, others are seeking for settlement in evacuation centers.

On the flipside, government agencies and emergency rescue groups such as Kenya Red Cross Society are also on an overdrive as they finalize plans to respond to any flood emergencies.

Temporary dykes

When People Daily visited the village at the weekend, the village was a beehive of activity as residents and volunteers also started the process of building temporary dykes to control floods. For Anyango, she claimed she is bracing for a prolonged period at the camp because of the rains.

“We are optimistic that the government and other players will build another evacuation camp. We are overcrowded. We fear the situation could be worse if the weather predictions are accurate,” she says.

She also asked the government to provide them with food items during the period and even cash transfers that can sustain them. She noted that most of their farms were destroyed by the last floods that came in March-April and has not embarked on farming again after the massive destruction.

According to Raymond Odhiambo, the disaster focal person at the Kenya Red Cross Society in charge of West Kenya Region, he says they have received a lot of meteorological advices indicating that El Nino rains will start in October. He says that they are working with 9 counties within West Kenya and the highest risk counties are Kisumu, Busia, Siaya, Migori and Homa bay to set up response.

“We are also doing emergency response plan and we have already prepared a matrix, “he said.

Monitoring situations

He noted that they have already started assessing and monitoring the situations since they started receiving the early warning from the met department.

He noted that they will also be doing support with the livelihoods because during floods, farms are marooned with water and crops are not expected to mature in such areas. He encouraged the community to clear drainages and have improved construction of water channels for water to flow directly to the lake without any hindrance.

According to Maurice Oritcho, Kisumu County’s director special programmes and disaster management, he says they have already identified flood prone areas. “We are currently doing disiltation works in those areas and we started with the water channels which usually cause the greatest risk,”he said.

He estimated that between 30,000 to 60,000 people might be affected by the floods. The director noted that they have been using primary schools as rescue centres and have currently identified a total of 29 rescue centers with 24 of them being gazetted. As a county, he revealed to us that they are fully prepared for the El Nino and he rated themselves at over 70%. From March to May, he said that 30,000 people were affected by floods.

In Homa Bay, Governor Gladys Wanga’s administration has rolled out an elaborate plan to respond to the El Nino rains. Kenya’s previous experience with El Niño in 1997 led to exceptionally heavy rainfall and devastating floods.

Last month, the Met department warned the country to prepare for the rains predicted to start in October.

In Kiambu, the county government has been urged to embark on various mitigation measures including unclogging blocked waterways, conducting public awareness and mapping out flood-prone areas to avert loss of lives and destruction of property.

Thika Town MP Alice Ng’ang’a urged Governor Kimani Wamatangi to proactively work towards minimizing the effects of floods by using the available resources to unblock drainage systems across the county and identify areas that in the past had been affected by floods.

Speaking while launching construction of dilapidated feeder roads in the constituency, an exercise that will also see drainage systems cleared, the MP expressed the need for the local government to seriously undertake sewerage and drainage systems ahead of the rains to avert previous devastations caused by heavy downpour.

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