Recent years have seen Kenya rocked by a barrage of disasters, the latest in the pile being the Likoni ferry tragedy in which a mother and her daughter tragically drowned in their car. The recovery of their bodies from the Indian ocean took a total 13 days.
The incident sent shock, trauma and fear over the country’s preparedness for disasters.
As normal operations resume at the Likoni channel, the government marked the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDRR) which fell on October 13th, through a three-day event at Simba Lodge in Isiolo.
The forum has brought together disaster risk reduction experts from think-tanks and government agencies. Among them are the National Disaster Operation Centre (NDOC), private sector, non-governmental organisations and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
DISASTER RISK REDUCTION
According to the Interior Principal Secretary Dr Karanja Kibicho, the symposium provides a platform for government, development partners, private sector, academia and NGOs to share knowledge on disaster risk reduction and chart the way forward for Kenya.
“Discussions focus on how the government can use existing tools to reduce damages to infrastructure including health facilities and schools. It will identify the gaps and opportunities that the government can utilise and exploit to achieve this target,” Dr Kibicho said.
He added that the recommendations arising from the symposium will be taken up through the National Action Plan (2019-2022) for escalation through the sectors concerned.
NO BUDGETARY ALLOCATION
However, it is debatable if these will be implemented given that a majority of the county governments do not budget for disaster risk reduction.
In a study published in May, the Development Initiatives, an international organisation that tracks governments’ allocation of resources, showed that counties have not mainstreamed disaster risk reduction in their departments. Yet, counties are the first point of contact with mwananchiwhen disasters strike.
The report. which analysed a research on four counties -- Kisumu, West Pokot, Laikipia and Baringo -- established that each of the counties only spent two percent of their annual budgetary allocations on disaster risk reduction.
The four counties invested a total of Sh6.4 billion on DRR between financial years 2016/17 and 2018/19. Baringo had the highest investment of Sh1.9 billion, followed by Kisumu and West Pokot at Sh1.7 billion each and Laikipia's Sh1.1 billion.
“When counties fail to mainstream disaster risk reduction in critical departments such as water, health, climatic change and agriculture, vulnerable populations are exposed to risks such as droughts, loss of livelihoods, malnutrition, poor sanitation and increasing poverty levels,” said Henry Odhiambo, the engagement and partnerships manager at Development Initiatives.
“To ensure sustainable development and minimise losses from future disasters, disaster risk reduction needs to be mainstreamed in all county departments in Kenya,” said Moses Omeri, the director at ResQ247 Ltd, a digital emergency rescue logistics firm.
Mr Omeri added that there was need for more public private partnerships between county governments, NGOs, private sector and academia.
Loss of lives, damage to property and infrastructure can be prevented through investments in disaster risk reduction, added Mr Omeri. “Human and economic resources channelled towards response and recovery during disaster could otherwise be directed to other development projects that improve lives. Additionally, investments in disaster risk reduction potentially attract county investors that seek to minimise exposure to disaster risks,” he explained.
Isiolo Governor Mohammed Kuti has termed the symposium as an opportune time for the county.
“This important meeting comes to Isiolo when the county is making strides in legal and institutional framework in disaster risk management,” said Dr Kuti.
PIONEER POLICY MAKER
Isiolo County was chosen as venue for this year’s IDRR celebrations for being the first in Kenya to develop the County Disaster Risk Management Policy, which is at the County Assembly awaiting debate. In addition, the Isiolo County Climate Change Fund Act 2018 is operational.
The DI report recommended that counties need to carry out comprehensive assessment of disaster risks to inform budgets and mainstream disaster risk reduction in all departments. It also raised a need for counties to share cost of disaster impact and disaster management to seal loopholes in disaster analysis.
On its part, the Kenya Red Cross has established partnerships with the Kenya Meteorological Department and IGAD Climate Prediction Centre to disseminate forecasts to communities that will enable them to make timely decisions to save lives and livelihoods, said Suada Ibrahim, the emergency services' disaster risk reduction manager.
“KRCS has also enhanced its preparedness to disasters in different parts of the country by investing in pre-positioning of emergency stocks that will enable them to provide relief in the shortest time possible,” she added.
According to Daniel Wepukhulu, a disaster risk reduction expert at the Meteorological Department, over 90 percent of all disasters in the world are related to weather.
“These include disasters in aviation, agriculture and such others,” said Mr Wepukhulu. He called on Kenyans to make use of daily weather reports in their undertakings, adding that they were over 90 percent accurate.
“Our observation network includes satellites, instruments in ships over the sea, and many others that send automatic data every 10 minutes,” he added.
He said that climatic change in Kenya is real and it is affecting routine things that people once took for granted.
In 2018, the Cabinet adopted and approved the National Disaster Risk Management policy.
The National Disaster Risk Management Bill 2017 is yet to be debated at the National Assembly. This bill seeks to establish the much-awaited National Disaster Risk Management Authority (NDRMA) with the mandate for coordinating the implementation of the National Policy for Disaster Management in Kenya.
Some of the organisations that have graced this year’s IDRR celebrations include: UNDP, European Union, ResQ247, USAID, Veterinaires Sans Frontiers, UNDRR, Mercy Corps, NDOC, World Food Programme, Development Initiatives, Kenya Red Cross, Kenya4Resilience, Impact, and Cordaid.