Thousands in need of urgent assistance as flash floods and landslides wreck havoc in Kenya

Published: 17 May 2010

A catastrophic combination of massive flooding, landslides and hailstorms in many parts of Kenya has lead to the loss of 93 lives and the displacement of 69,000 people. Since March, more than 2,600 heads of livestock have been swept away by raging waters. A total of 130,000 people are affected and hundreds of villages are now marooned due to collapsed roads and bridges hampering relief efforts. The ongoing rains and flash floods are lasting longer than predicted and have caused massive destruction to infrastructure and large swathes of farmland, says the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

An initial allocation of 432,589 Swiss francs (415,950 US dollars or 292,289 euros) from IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) enabled the Kenya Red Cross Society to rapidly deploy hundreds of volunteers to the affected areas. They evacuated the homeless and assisted the victims of landslides in seven districts through search and rescue services. A rapid flood risk assessment has put areas such as Kakamega, Kisii, Murang’a and Nandi Hills on high mudslide alert. At least 3,000 affected families received relief items such as family kits and water jerrycans but many more are in dire need, according to the National Society.

“At the onset of the long rainy season, the entire coutry has been experiencing flooding with areas such as Tana River, Malindi, Nyando and parts of Nairobi being worst affected. But, with weather forcasts indicating that widespread above normal rainfall will last until July, we fear that flooding could worsen in the near future”, says Alexander Matheou, IFRC’s Head of Eastern African regional office.

In an effort to avert this, the International Federation has launched a preliminary emergency appeal seeking 7,311,822 Swiss francs ( 6,908,734 US dollars or  5,231,857 euros) to assist the Kenya Red Cross Society to provide assistance to some 111,743 affected people .

For the next six months, the Red Cross plans to replenish or preposition new stocks of food and relief items such as family kits, medical supplies and emergency shelter for distribution in the worst hit districts. The allocation of seeds to farmers and restocking of livestock to pastoralists is also part of the Red Cross early recovery plans.

Hundreds of communal water points have been rendered unsafe after contamination following the collapse and flooding of close to 300 latrines, increading the risks of outbreaks of water  and vector-borne diseases.

“Most of the flooded areas were already grappling with cholera and dysentry. Some districts have had active cholera tranismission for the past three  months. We plan to ensure the supply water treatment tablets, prepositioning of water treatment plants and sensitization of communities to reduce chances of a full blown outbreak,” , says Dr James Kisia, the Deputy Secretary General of the Kenya Red Cross Society.

Until the onset of the rains, close to 4 million Kenyans were reeling from the effects of a prolonged drought that had caused the loss of lives and livelihoods. Nearly 2 million among them received Red Cross Red Crescent assistance as pastoralists lost thousands of livestock and a desperate search of pasture lead them as far as into city parks.

Close to 200 homesteads in areas such as Bor and Waye Goda in Northern Kenya have been sunbmerged in waters from a flash flood in Southern Ethiopia. Kenya Red Cross is working in liasion with Tanzania Red Cross branches of Tanga and Kiliminjaro in monitoring a cross border flood situation that is likely to affect thousands of people.