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Flood victims cry out as leaders trade barbs over Kisumu tour

Saturday April 25 2020

Nyando flooding

A family waits along Kisumu-Kericho highway after floodwaters damaged their homes in Kobura in Nyando, Kisumu County, on April 21, 2020. PHOTO | ONDARI OGEGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

VICTOR RABALLA
By VICTOR RABALLA
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ELIZABETH OJINA
By ELIZABETH OJINA
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A meeting expected to assess the impact of floods in Kisumu County ended in disarray on Saturday after local leaders clashed over the invitation of two Cabinet secretaries.

The confusion forced Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa and Water's Sicily Kariuki to call off the tour of Western Kenya at the last minute.

An estimated 32,000 people have been displaced by flash floods in various parts of Kisumu, according to estimates by the county government.

The two CSs had been expected in Nyando, hardest hit by the floods described by locals as the worst in many years.

While Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o attributed cancellation of the event to poor weather in Nairobi, Senator Fred Outa and Woman Representative Rosa Buyu accused him of blocking the meeting meant to assist more than 30,000 displaced people.

“CS Wamalwa has just called to inform me that they arrived at Wilson Airport in Nairobi early in the morning but were advised not to fly due to bad weather,” Governor Nyongo’o told hundreds of displaced residents at who assembled at Kamagaga Evacuation centre in Muhoroni Sub-county.

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A boy rescues his dog at Ayweyo center in
A boy rescues his dog at Ayweyo center in Nyando, Kisumu County, following flooding after heavy rains on March 26, 2020. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

SENATOR'S CLAIMS

But Mr Outa and Mrs Buyu, who claimed to have invited the two CSs, alleged that Governor Nyong’o insisted that the meeting would not take place since he was not consulted.

“The Cabinet secretaries, among other top government officials, were already at the airport but were repulsed by our own governor," Mr Outa told a parallel gathering.

The cheers and jeers forced Prof Nyong’o to cut short his address to the media on the measures the county has taken to cushion Kisumu residents against adverse effects of floods and the spread of Covid-19 disease.

An attempt by the visibly agitated governor to confront his political ally-turned-foe was, however, thwarted after his security officers blocked him from advancing towards Mr Outa.

According to Senator Outa, Governor Nyong’o wants the national government to channel funds meant for desilting and opening of water channels in Nyando through the county government.

The senator has maintained that the money be given to the National Irrigation Board (NIB), which has the mandate and capacity for the task.

Mrs Buyu also blamed Kisumu County Commissioner Susan Waweru, accusing her of colluding with the county administration to undermine the local leadership.

Muhoroni MP Onyango K’Oyoo asked the leaders not to use the the dire situation to gain political mileage.

“This is not the time for us to start chest-thumping over who is doing what or not. We should unite to help our people who are facing various challenges,” he said as he appealed for the completion of Soin-Koru dam.

A resident of Ayweyo in Nyando, Kisumu County,
A resident of Ayweyo in Nyando, Kisumu County, salvage their belongings after flooding due to heavy rains on March 26, 2020. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

SAD TALE

The leaders traded barbs as flood victims continued to suffer in camps.

Congestion, poor sanitation, inadequate food supplies and lack of essentials such as drugs, mosquito nets, bedding and clothes summarise the sad tale of the displaced in evacuation centres in Nyando.

The dire situation calls for an urgent humanitarian intervention as agitated residents complained over the deplorable conditions they had to contend with, in what has been termed as the worst floods ever in many years.

A visit to one of the centres, Lela Secondary School, told it all.

It was not spared by the ravages of bad weather as evacuated residents waded through pools of stagnant waters as they went around their business.

When the Nation team toured the rescue centre, frail-looking children and the elderly gazed through wide open windows anticipating some sort of relief while a few men and women advanced towards our vehicle clutching their carrier bags as they braced the chilly weather.

When they agreed to be interviewed, they expressed frustration and anger with everything and everyone.

“For the last three days that we have been here, our leaders seem to have abandoned us in the face of biting starvation and the threat of contracting waterborne diseases,” said Mr Pius Obonyo.

“We have also been forced to use the few available staff latrines after the one usually used by students sank,” he added.

Mrs Esther Wanda, 75, was in agony as her ulcers drugs were swept by floodwaters that hit the neighbouring Kanyang’wara village on Tuesday.

Ms Wanda and the 17 members of her extended family were spread across classrooms while the younger children were distributed among their relatives in Rabuor and Ahero townships.

Due to the high number of people affected, Lela assistant chief Mr Lawrence Owino said they have been forced to place 15 people per classroom.

"We have scattered the 2,000 people across three rescue centres in Lela, Kobura Girls and Rabuor Primary School," he said.

Many people from the expansive Lela, Otho and Katho areas have sought refuge in other places due to the shortage of space in the three designated areas.

Excavation to open up waterways takes place at
Excavation to open up waterways takes place at a rice irrigation scheme in Ahero, Kisumu County, on April 22, 2020. Farmers in the region face an estimated loss of Sh800 million due to the backflow of Lake Victoria's waters. PHOTO | ONDARI OGEGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

NEGLECT CLAIMS

Residents of Kakoko village accused both the national and county governments of neglecting them yet they are severely affected.

“Most of the people on the right side of the tarmac are still feeling the heat of the floods after the county government unclogged the culverts that released the waters to our side,” said Mr Gerald Omondi.

The residents pointed out that the dike that channels its water to Ahero Irrigation Scheme created a barrier for the water to flow into a river downstream.

“We call on Governor Nyong’o to consider constructing a culvert for the water to flow and join the river,” he said, cautioning that letting the water join the dike could lead to a huge backflow and worsen the situation.

Mrs Cyprosa Odari said she has been forced to spend her night in her flooded house after failing to secure a place in the evacuation centres.

“We have no other option but to let live with what is available. We are praying that the situation gets better to enable us live normal lives,” she said.

FISHING ACTIVITIES

Across the region, fishing activities on several beaches along the lake have been affected following the rise in Lake Victoria's water level.

This has resulted in a massive backflow of water in the lakeshore at various beaches.

Amongst the worst affected beaches are those in Busia and Homa Bay, such as West Rachuonyo North, Suba North, Remba and other Islands found in Suba South constituency, where fishermen have been displaced and structures submerged in water.

According to Nyanza Regional Beach Management Unit (BMU) Chairman, Mr Tom Guda, the waters have moved almost 100m into fishing bandas.

"The lake is very shallow and of late, there is a lot of siltation thus there's a backflow," said Mr Guda.

He raised concern that more families on the beaches are at high risk of being displaced should the trend continue in Lake Victoria.

Dr Christine Okoth, the Regional Assistant Director of Fisheries, told the Nation that with the heavy tides, fishermen have abandoned expeditions.

"The landing sites, business structures and bandas have been completely destroyed by water causing huge losses," said Dr Okoth. "At least 78 per cent of the beaches in the region are flooded."

In Nyando, more than 7, 500 acres of rice paddies have been submerged.

Farmers at the Ahero rice scheme are staring at an estimated Sh810 million loss due to flooding occasioned by heavy rains and the Lake Victoria backflow witnessed in the past few months.