Tuesday, May 6, 2003
One million rendered homeless as flooding gets worse
By NATION Team
At least one million people have been displaced in floods that have swamped parts of Western and Nyanza provinces.
And to avoid further loss of life, people living on the banks of the Tana River in Coast Province were asked to leave their homes after the river burst its banks, destroying 200 acres of crops.
Thousands of refugees have been made homeless at Dadaab camp in Garissa following flooding.
In response to the disaster which has seen more than 30 people drown throughout the country, Vice-President Michael Wamalwa yesterday launched an emergency fund for flood victims, as meteorologists predicted the rains will continue.
Although they will ease in some areas – notably Nairobi, Central, North Eastern and the South East – forecasts show heavy rains will continue to pound the West, adding to the misery in Nyando and Budalang'i areas.
The VP described the plight of the flood victims as "desperate and bleak."
Uasin Gishu last month received its heaviest rainfall in 51 years with 190 millimetres, compared to the 155 mm that fell in 1954.
The Budalang'i floods have followed the heavy rains there and throughout Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, Kakamega, Mumias, Butere, Siaya and Busia.
Heavy rains falling in the western side of the Rift Valley have made the situation worse in Nyando where hundreds of people have escaped from their homes and are perching in makeshift shelters waiting for government help.
The Meteorological Department warned flooding may worsen as heavy rainfall is expected in the area "for some time, thereby worsening the current flood situation in the area," said meteorologist Samuel Mwangi.
Where the rains would subside it would be because of the formation of a cyclone in the Indian Ocean in the last 48 hours, he said.
But Mr Mwangi added that overall, this year's rains are "nowhere as heavy as those experienced in 1962 or the El Nino rains of 1997".
He continued: "The flooding in Budalang'i, for example, is due to the breaking down of one of the dykes which filter water to the Nzoia river while the Nyando/Kano floods are a seasonal feature."
Mr Wamalwa asked well-wishers to send their donations to the office of the Permanent Secretary, Office of the Vice President, Nairobi.
While the rains continue, the National Cereals and Produce Board ruled out a maize shortage, saying the country had a carry-over stock of 5.5 million bags from the last season, and that one million bags might be carried over to next season.
To prevent malaria and other water-borne diseases, the government planned to provide treated mosquito nets to mothers with children under five years.
The deputy Director of Medical Services, Dr Joyce Onsongo, said the nets were among measures the government was taking.
Others included sending drugs to flooded areas and providing clean drinking water.
"The government will ensure that everyone affected by the floods remains healthy while a lasting solution to the problem is being sought," she said during a tour of health centres in West Nyakach, Nyando.
Mr Ibrahim Maalim, who is in charge of emergency relief at the Office of the President, said he would ensure sufficient food reached flooded areas. People in Budalang'i and Nyando had received 6,000 bags of maize and 1,600 bags of beans.
Budalang'i, he said, was the hardest hit and would receive another consignment of relief food soon.
At least 40 schools failed to reopen for the new term yesterday in Nyanza. They were said to be submerged and could not be reached.
Nyanza Director of Education David Siele confirmed most schools remained closed in Nyando, Rachuonyo and Migori where the rains continued to fall.
Nyando was the worst hit with more than 30 of its schools remaining closed, while six stayed shut in Rachuonyo and four in Migori – Nyora, Kabuto, Sere and Kimai primaries.
In Nyando, police boss Francis Opiyo said they were still monitoring the extent of damage caused by flooding and said the level of the River Awach had increased tremendously over the past 24 hours and flooded Katito and Ahero.
Pupils returning to Ria Girls School could not have made it easily because of the high water level, he said.
Elsewhere in Kisumu, Mr Siele said the reopening of schools had not yet been badly affected and learning was expected to resume uninterrupted.
But as fears were being expressed over the flooding, medical authorities there moved swiftly to assure residents there has been no upsurge in malaria.
"We are not taking any chances and have doubled our public awareness campaign on preventive measures just in case," said the Nyanza Provincial Medical Officer, Dr Ambrose Misore.
The control of perennial floods in Nyando caused by heavy rains and overflow of the Nyando river ranks high in the Ministry of Water Development's agenda, the Nyanza provincial water engineer, Mr. Job Tomno.
Already four kilometres of dykes on either side of the river have been built with the other eight to be erected as soon as funds became available.
Following a spending freeze by the government, work on building 16 kilometres of dykes on the lower part of the River Nyando has been halted.
Mr Tomno said the Nyando Flood Control Unit was being undertaken in phases with the second phase seeing the building of 18 kilometres of dykes on the upper side of the river to reduce meandering.
The third phase would see dams built and digging of canals for agriculture, hydro-electric power and irrigation projects.
The Nyando Flood Control Unit was formed in 1984 and estimated to cost Sh750 million, but even its first phase has yet to be completed, due to insufficient money. Sh30 million was allocated to the project, of which 29.2 million has been spent.
The UN refugee agency has, in the meantime, begun airlifting supplies to thousands of refugees made homeless at the Dadaab camp in Garissa following flooding.
The UNHCR had by yesterday chartered flights to deliver 32,000 litres of fuel to the 130,000 refugees whose makeshift homes have been wrecked by the floods.
Since last week, Dadaab has been cut-off by rains that have washed away parts of the road from Garissa.
The UNHCR said it was working with the Government to speed up the release from Customs of plastic sheetings used to cover shelters. More than 18,000 sheets are held up at Mombasa.
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