Disaster preparedness is still a pipe dream despite big effort

Tuesday May 8 2018

The Kenya Meteorological Department sounded the alarm that parts of the country would receive more-than-normal rains or experience unusual weather conditions early in the year.

Year in, year out, whenever there is rainfall, the country goes through the ravages of floods — which, if well-managed, could be a major player in the ‘Big Four’ agenda pillar of food security.

It’s wrong for the country to be losing such huge amounts of water to run-off while it’s unable to provide safe drinking water to the citizens in addition to blaming low water levels for the high electricity costs and blackouts.

As other Kenyans continue losing lives and properties to floods, there are lessons to be learnt from Budalang’i in Busia County, which, for some years, has been spared the hitherto devastating floods. What can other parts of the country learn from that? What happened to the rainwater harvesting technologies, and have companies such Kenya Power lost their innovativeness?

The country created a disaster preparedness plan following the 1997 El-Niño condition, which has enabled the national and county governments to develop mitigation measures to deal with the anticipated unusual weather conditions.

DISASTERS

With an elaborate Disaster Risk Reduction Legal, Institutional and Coordination Framework, why are floods and other disasters still ravaging Kenyans? Where is the coordination between the two levels of government and support groups?

Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana has already responded to the aftermath of the heavy rains by establishing disaster units and allowing his staff to work in flexible time frames aware of the danger. On the contrary, Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi was quoted in the  media as complaining about lack of national government support to deal with floods in his county.

The structure and framework of disaster management bodies indicates that the country has made disaster risk reduction a national and local priority with strong institutional framework through citing various legal and policy documents. They include the Constitution, acts of Parliament, legislation and presidential decrees and gazette notices. Consequently, a number of institutions were created.

RISK REDUCTION

They include the Ministry of State for Special Programmes (now a directorate under the Devolution and Planning ministry); the National Disaster Operation Centre (NDOC), under Interior and Coordination of National Government ministry; National Disaster Management Unit (NDMU); National Police Service, under the Interior ministry; and National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), under the Devolution ministry.

There was also the appointment of disaster risk reduction focal points in all the line ministries by the Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service.

What are these bodies doing, and are they funded well to deal with the situation? What happened to implementation plan rolled out by the NDOC and the Task Force set up by the government?

Victor Bwire, Nairobi.