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The humanitarian crisis in West Pokot camps

Tuesday November 26 2019

West Pokot landslides

Residents watch as excavators unblock a bridge on the Serbit River in West Pokot County on November 25, 2019. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

OSCAR KAIKAI
By OSCAR KAIKAI
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A humanitarian crisis is looming in two camps at Nyarkulian and Lolwei primary schools following the Friday landslides and floods that claimed more than 50 lives in West Pokot County.

More than 200 people are in the two camps out of the more than 400 people who were uprooted from their homes.

Women, children and men in the camps are living without basic necessities such as food, clean water, shelter, clothing, beddings and medication.

The ongoing heavy rainfall that has rendered roads impassable and hampered food supplies by the national government.

'BELATED RESPONSE'

Ms Jesca Chepchesinyor, a survivor, on Tuesday told the Nation that the chilly weather has greatly affected them, especially small children.

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“We risk getting pneumonia because this area is very cold. We need food and drugs,” she said. (While many people associate cold weather with pneumonia it is not directly responsible for making people sick. Pneumonia is caused by bacteria and spreads faster during cold season because people tend to crowd together or stay indoors.)

Another victim of the landslides, Mr Julius Kedisha, said they need food and shelter.

"For how long are we going to stay in this camp? We need to be given alternative homes," he said.

People affected by landslides and flooding in Nyarkulian, Muino and Parua areas accused the national government of a “belated response”.

Petasia Lorumo, one of the victims of the
Petasia Lorumo, one of the victims of the landslide at Nyarkulian in West Pokot County recuperates at Kapenguria County Referral Hospital on November 25, 2019. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Philip Katina, a resident of Sebit, said the national and county governments had failed to adequately respond to their cries for help.

“It’s shameful that it took Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago to dispatch some machines from the neighbouring county to come and open Sebit-Ortum road that had been rendered impassable for 36 hours,” Mr Karina said.

PLANTING TREES

The deadly landslides, he said, exposed the slow government response and lack of disaster preparedness.

Pius Lokeris, a resident of Ortum, lamented the poor level of disaster preparedness by the West Pokot County government.

“We didn’t expect such numbers of deaths from our peaceful villages,” he said.

“Victims should be compensated and the next generation will be safer if we plant more trees.”

He did not have kind words for the national government in Nairobi.

Deputy President William Ruto inspects the
Deputy President William Ruto inspects the destruction caused by a landslide along Barua River in West Pokot County. PHOTO | CHARLES MAINA | DPPS

“Recently, we heard that Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, who is our neighbour from Trans-Nzoia, came up to Kapenguria and made a U-turn after he was recalled back by senior security officers. He should know that Kapenguria is not Nyarkulian, Parua or Muino where people are suffering.”

'EGO TRIPS'

Nation reporters who have been camping in the villages accessed the area by motor vehicles and at some point, trekked to reach the scene of one of Kenya’s worst natural disasters in recent times.

Nelson Kibet, a resident, said it was ridiculous and strange that the highest ranking officers in disaster management of a country cannot access disaster scenes.

“Truth be said, it is purely power struggles and ego trips that have made the so-called powerful individuals make an about turn in Eldoret,” he said, referring to a trip by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and Eugene Wamalwa (Devolution) that ended in Eldoret due to bad weather.

“From the theatrics they have played today we are only left to conclude that we have been pumping billions to a hole in the name of disaster allocations and we should seek an account of the same.”

Area leaders, led by area Governor John Lonyangapuo, hit out at the national government. WATCH VIDEO HERE

“We have heard that they decided to cut short the journey to this place because of clouds but we are here and not seeing clouds,” said Prof Lonyangapuo.

Pokot South MP David Pkosing faulted Dr Matiang’i and Mr Wamalwa for failing to make the trip to the scene of the disaster.

“Why can’t they use vehicles to deliver the food ?" he asked.

HORROR TALES

Kapenguria County Referral Hospital in West
Kapenguria County Referral Hospital in West Pokot where some of the survivors of the landslides are recuperating on November 25, 2019. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Some of the survivors are fighting for their lives in local hospitals, with the critical cases being handled at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret.

When the Nation visited Kapenguria County Hospital, we found 23-year-old Leah Chemekeu, who survived landslides at Nyarkulian area, sitting on her bed.

Hers is a tale of horror shared by those that made it out of muddy tombs on a night that death visited several villages in the area.

She recalled that at 11pm, she heard a huge stone landing outside her house.

Three minutes later, her house started shaking and ground broke loose before her own eyes.

Chemekeu says were it not for screams from her daughter who attracted her in-laws, she would have been swallowed by the mud.

“As the house buckled, my daughter screamed attracting attention of my in-laws who responded and rescued me. I lost three children who were swept to their death. Their bodies were found metres away from the house,” she said.

Titus Lorum, who lost his wife and child, says he is glad to be alive.

Elias Losian, who has injuries on the head, lost his neighbour and says he is yet to come to terms with the reality.

Emily Chesang aged 17 says that she was covered by heavy soil in the house.

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