Where do we go? Solai dam survivors ask as camp closes - Daily Nation

Solai camp closes today amid warning survivors not ready for new life

Saturday May 19 2018

Solai

Solai residents in Nakuru County mourn relatives who died after the walls of a dam collapsed during a burial service in Solai on May 16, 2018. The camp hosting more than 200 families is set to be closed down on May 19, 2018 but counsellors warn the survivors are not psychologically yet to move out of the camp, with many of them yet to accept the new reality. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By PETER MBURU
More by this Author

The camp in Solai Boys High School where over 200 families have been staying for the past two weeks following deadly Patel Dam burst is set to be closed down on Saturday.

The closure comes amid warnings from counsellors that the survivors are too traumatised and are not yet ready to start a new life.

Residents are still in deep pain 11 days after the Patel Dam burst its walls and unleashed more than 70 million litres of water that swept everything in its path.

With their property, livestock and loved ones gone, life has not gone back to normal for the scores of families affected by the tragedy.

Most of the victims lost everything, and don't even have photographs that would have otherwise been left to remind them of their loved ones.

Up to now, more than 200 families have not found a place to resettle and re-start life all over again.

The authorities have said the camp must be closed down on Saturday for the school to resume operations on Monday, but victims complain they are not ready and counsellors warn they are still in deep trauma.

GO WHERE?

The helpless survivors don’t know where to go since their homes and those of their neighbours were destroyed.

“They gave us up to today to vacate this school so that students resume learning on Monday. We understand children have to get back but we cannot understand where they want us to go. Who is willing to host us? The rentals of this area were all swept away,” asked Ms Charity Chemutai.

Ms Chemutai, a mother of seven, wondered why they would be thrown out in such a manner, saying that is just like throwing them on the road.

She said that they led a good life before, had planned with enough food for the year, and crops to cater for the future. But with the unexpected tragedy, they do not know where to begin.

“What remained of our land is hard to imagine, there are only rocks and we can no longer farm because all the soil was swept kilometres away,” Ms Chemutai said.

Even though a few days ago they were on the spotlight after President Uhuru Kenyatta attended the memorial service for the victims, now the residents say they feel they are being left alone to fend for themselves.

Ms Veronica Wangeci, 76, is a worried woman. Talking to Nation on Friday, she wore a pale look that told of nothing but sorrow after what she has gone through.

In her life, she has never lived in a rental house but she now has to, thanks to a tragedy she never imagined.

Besides, what has been left of her land makes it more of a quarry than a farm, she said.

NEW LIFE

A woman whose life fully depended on farming now wonders what fate holds for her, her land having being turned into a quarry of some sort, after all the soil and crops it held were swept away.

“Even if the government decides to build a house for me, it will just be a ceremonious act because being a farmer I do not know what I will be doing. The only solution to my life is getting land where I can farm because that is what I have been doing all my life,” Ms Wangeci said.

This was the desolate tale of tens of the victims who spoke to Nation on Friday, as many called on the government to fasten efforts to rehabilitate their lives.

Subukia MP Samuel Gachobe said the plan to close down the camp was a temporary solution in order to have learning continue and allow residents rebuild their lives.

He, however, said victims would receive final compensation from the government depending on what they lost.

“We are giving them foodstuffs to run for three months, household utensils, cash and other necessities to help them start a life before they can get full compensation,” Mr Gachobe told Nation.

Leaders said they were also worried that ‘ghost’ victims would also join the camp in an attempt to benefit from the planned payment for the survivors.

Kabazi Ward Representative told Nation that there were cases of people from villages that were not affected by the tragedy camping with the victims in order to benefit from the government relief payment.

WOUNDED

But even as authorities stood to their ground on closing down the camp, there were serious concerns from counsellors.

Counsellors warned that majority of the victims were seriously traumatised and require at least a month of intensive sessions to heal psychological wounds, saying after leaving the camp it would be hard to reach them.

Mr Stanley Rugaita, a counsellor from the Kenya Counselling and Psychology Association, said over the two weeks they had only managed to offer psychological first aid, but most of the survivors were yet to accept the tragedy had occurred.

“This was an emergency disaster and so it found many unprepared, majority of them are yet to accept. Many of them sustained serious psychological wounds after losing property and loved ones. They need intensive counselling for a whole month to cure those wounds,” Mr Rugaita said.

He urged the government to consider offering counselling to the families, saying if that does not happen, there would be psychological impacts for the survivors since they are holding in something they cannot handle.

“We are talking about people who lost strong bonds of people they knew in a flash, and even those who haven’t felt the pain, the effects will come with time, something that can have serious consequences,” said Mr Rugaita.

Advertisement