For a long time, floods have been a thorn in the flesh of Kenyans. Rain is the main core of our existence yet it is also a weapon for mass destruction. It is not impossible to handle rainfall. We need plans, skills, and technology in order to tackle it.
We also need institutional mechanisms like the Water Act, 2002 provides a catchment management strategy for the protection and control of water resources. If applied practically, this can reduce flood.
Flood is one of the most common hazards in Kenya. It is defined as the covering of normally dry land by water that has escaped or has been released from the normal confines of any lake or any river or other natural watercourses, whether or not altered or modified or any reservoir or dam.
The Budalangi floodplain, situated within the Lake Victoria region is one of the most densely populated regions in Kenya. The floodplain is found in western Kenya and lies on the eastern shores of Lake Victoria where River Nzoia is entering the lake. The flood usually starts when River Nzoia breaks its banks. The highest point in the western region of Kenya is the peak of Mt. Elgon while the lowest is in Busia County. The climate of the region is mainly tropical with variations due to altitude. Busia county is mainly warm and receives heavy rainfall throughout the year.
The aims of developing flood preparedness plan are:
- Reduce Vulnerability of Budalangi residents to flood disaster
- Increase the response time
- Increase the coping capacity
- Mitigate the impacts of flood
- Increase and sustain the resilience of vulnerable communities
The government organizations involved in prevention, response and management of flood in Budalangi areas in Kenya include the National Disaster Operations Centre (NDOC); the Kenya Red Cross society, which many at times are involved in emergency response and also taking mitigation measures to avoid future occurrences of flood disaster; the National Disaster Management Agency. Other participants in disaster management include specialized departments such as the Police, the Department of Defence, the National Youth Service (NYS), local Fire Brigades, St John’s Ambulance Service, Occupational Health and Safety Services, Kenya Wildlife Services and the National Environment Management Agency (NEMA).
Many factors are likely to contribute to the increase of those affected by disasters. One of these is the vulnerability proﬁle of the population. There is high rainfall throughout the year in the western region of Kenya. Budalangi area is situated in the low lands thus the topography of the area is the major cause of flooding. Residents of the area are majorly farmers and mainly the farming activities are practiced throughout the year as we always have rainfall. There is also the practice of agriculture along the river bank. This reduces cover crops, leads to the destruction of the soil structure. Originally the area was covered with forest and due to agriculture; there was deforestation in order to create room for agriculture.
Economic well being and availability of resources can also be an asset or a liability. Those with more assets and economic structures are more likely to experience more losses than those with nothing as they have much to lose. At the same time, those with resources and more economically established are likely to suffer less as they may, for instance, insure their properties against the impact of the flood, build stronger homes that cannot be shackled by flood events or live in a raised area within the land where they cannot be affected.
Environmental degradation increases the negative effects of extreme events on society. While disaster preparedness measures to help save lives, the failure to reduce risks more broadly may be contributing to the higher numbers of disaster-affected people. Unfortunately, data are not uniformly collected, but more information would likely show an increase in the number of affected people, although the definition of ‘‘affected’’ varies (IFRC 2003)
Local authorities and their interactions with public, private, and civil society may play an important role in urban risk reduction to bridge the gap between national and international risk management players and local communities (UNDP 2004). But this implies a high level of municipal governance.
Sectoral planning needs to be in place. Most important sectors in flood emergency response include the Medical sector, Transport, and Communication, food shelter and clothing, search and rescue.
The victims and survivors of flood disaster will need emergency medical services which will have to be provided for by the medical team that responds, for example, the Kenya Red Cross Society or Saint Johns. It should be noted that the role of these emergency medical teams is just to offer first aid services and nothing more than that. However, usually, we have more serious cases that need to be transported to the medical facilities for serious treatment. This cases now requires an arrangement with the nearby hospitals or medical facilities such that should that we have a disaster; it is clear where the victims will be taken to.
Many at times, the Red Cross Society provides food, shelter, and clothing. There are also other organizations that chip in and provide extra basic needs. We also need to have a group comprising of the locals to help in the distribution of those items.
Proper coordination of transport and communication is very vital during an emergency. There is a need to have a good flow of communication so that we do not create confusion and we take as little time as possible to respond. The main communication body or team needs to be in place and should be looked upon by the entire team and community to communicate anything that people and agency need to know. In the same line, transportation of the victims so secure grounds is also important thus the transport team needs to be in place. It can be comprised of the locals and few others from outside to offer assistance because the locals have a good understanding of the terrain.
The search and rescue groups should also be formed and should comprise of the locals and others from outside. Mainly during flooding, the security forces come in to help in the searching and rescuing of the victims. They are also involved in the transportation of the survivors to a secure ground which is raised. They also provide security for the victims and the survivors.
Sometimes the flood might be very big and the local community, local authority, and the community-based organizations might not be in a position to fully respond to it. This calls for the need to have a contingency plan on hand so that in case it overwhelms the community, so and so might be contacted in order to offer assistance. During the development of a contingency plan, those external partners we expected to get help from are notified of the role they are expected to place in case they are called upon.
In the case of flooding in the Budalangi area, the main response team we expect is from the Kenya Red Cross which can be taken from Bungoma, the Kenya defense forces and sometimes the Kenya police and the national youth services most of whom are sorted from their headquarters.
We can also seek assistance from institutions like Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology and any other institution in the region that can quickly avail themselves in the case of emergency.
Emergency Operation Centers, Counter Disaster organizations.
The emergency operation centers cannot be established in the region that the plan is being prepared for and at the same time it cannot be established far away from the region for ease of communication. Within the region, we must have an area that is safe from flooding. This is the area that is selected for setting up a temporary emergency operation center should the flood strike, in order to ensure flows of activities.
On warning systems, in this case, we mainly rely on weather forecasting which in this case is done by the Kenya Meteorological Department at the regional level. This will give us a warning in case we are going to have heavy rainfalls which are the major cause of flooding in the region.
Monitoring of the flow of water in the rivers and the depth on the river is also a way of knowing if flooding is going to happen. This can be done by the locals and also the Kenya Wildlife Service does the same, so we can rely on data from them.
The indigenous method like monitoring the behavior of various birds is also a way of monitoring for the occurrence of a flood. Once, we know that the flood is going to happen when we hand over the information to the relevant team to issue it out.
Whistleblowers should be in place in order to give the information to the local. We can use the local authority through the chiefs to disseminate the information. Local Radio like the West FM and Radio Mambo which are very popular stations can also play a very important role in the spreading of the information.
All information should also follow this channel. Various language should be used: English, Kiswahili, and the native language to ensure that everybody understands the threat that they are facing. On the same note, the simple and plain language should be used to easy understanding. Not technical terms should be used to avoid further confusion by the recipients of the information.
Operational information and counter disaster organizations.
The Government Departments that will be involved in the responding to and provision of disaster logistics after and during the flood emergency in the region will include the Department of Special Programs under the Ministry of Devolution. A lot of procurement and purchasing from the Government side will also be conducted by the same Department.
Under the same ministry, we also have the National Youth Service personnel who are well trained in responding to every kind of disaster in Kenya. They will be of use in the supplying of foodstuffs and other emergency supplies to the victims. They will also do the search and rescue.
The Defense Ministry will be involved in the transportation of supplies from their area of procurement to the scene of a disaster or where the victims are placed for safety. They will use trucks, that is, road transport and where need be, air transport will be used. The defense ministry offers a wide range of humanitarian services thus their presence and services will not be limited to specific actions.
Local Government is the people who are on the ground and most probably they will be the first ones to know when flood emergency occurs. The local government will provide the necessary basic emergency supplies like medical supplies especially first aid to the victims, they will do the search and rescue and they will also be involved in the transportation of the victims to medical facilities for further medication. They will also demarcate the disaster scene so as to keep people away and reduce further damage. The local authorities will work closely with the community-based organizations, the youth groups in the region and quick responders in carrying out the emergency response while awaiting the help of external organizations.
When flood emergency has been declared, we are going to receive a lot of volunteers, both at personal capacity and others from organizations. The first volunteers to come on board will be The Kenya Red Cross Society. We are going to have a lot of organizations coming in on short notice, therefore, it will be the task of the available disaster manager to take charge and delegate the duties so that we do not have duplication of roles and services. In the absence of a disaster manager, one organization, say the Red Cross should take the lead role. Therefore, it is from that Red cross that we are going to have the liaison from in order to take charge of the entire operation.
Administration, Financial Procedures, Supply.
Emergency procurement during such disasters is done by the government. During the annual fiscal budget, some funds are set aside for disasters. The Public Procurement Oversight Authority states that: “From time to time, there may be an interruption of business operations due to disaster or emergency arising from either internal or external failures. Procurement procedures applied in such circumstances may be different from business as usual.”
Disaster preparedness through procurement contracting unanticipated disasters may occur. Each procuring entity should, therefore, prepare a Disaster Recovery Policy which should outline how a Disaster Recovery Plan may be put in place to respond to any disaster. A disaster shall be considered in the context of the definition of ‘urgent needs’ as defined in the PP&D Act 2005, Section 3(1).
The term ‘emergency’ shall mean any circumstance caused by fire, flood, explosion, storm, earthquake, an epidemic, riot, insurrection or inherent defects or failure in key equipment or any other unforeseen circumstances so as to threaten the ordinary flow of the business of an institution or any other occurrences that can create situations similar to the foregoing. A contract may be awarded under emergency conditions provided that an emergency procurement is justified under the circumstances. Departments or a section of the procuring entity responding to an emergency should exercise appropriate controls when making emergency procurements. Emergency procurement shall be limited to those goods and services necessary to meet the emergency.
This, therefore, means that getting emergency supplies from the government will not be difficult as it is already the policy within the government of Kenya.
The powers of requisitioning should be given either to a prominent politician from the region, be it the area member of parliament or an established organization that has a good relationship with the Government like the Kenya Red Cross Society. This will ensure that the request is granted in a short time as possible and it will also help in removing the red tape.
Educating the public on the importance of staying safe from a flood is included here. Members of the public should be told what to do in the case of a flood disaster. This information should also include the actions they should take in order to mitigate the impact of flood and also to prevent its occurrence. The information should come from the highest authority, for example, the National Disaster Operations Centre or the Department of Special Programs in order to show its seriousness. It should be in the printed as well as broadcast media and should use multiple languages in order to expand on the audience.
Police and fire brigades are usually involved in the search and rescue thus the need to involve them in the flood preparedness plan. The involvement of the police is also important as they represent the government. By them being there, it is easy to take care of the dead as the bureaucracy of writing statements is taken care of.
A table should also be set up with two or three volunteers to help in the registration of people. The registers should cover the dead, the survivors and lost family members so that it becomes easy for people to locate their loved ones. Registration of persons also enables the involved agencies and the Government to plan as they know the exact number of people they are dealing with.
In conclusion, There is need to develop the link between the National Disaster Operations Center, Department of Water and Special Programs and Kenya Metrological department in order to develop an integrated flood forecasting and disaster management.
De gueni et al. Regulation of Natural hazards: Fire and floods.
Draft National Policy for Disaster Management in Kenya, February 2009
MunichRe, 2001: Topics 2000: Natural Catastrophes: The Current Position. Special Millennium Issue, Munich.
MunichRe, 2003: Annual Review: Natural Catastrophes. Available at http:// www.munichre.com/publications/302–03202_en.pdf?rdm54724.
Public Procurement Manual for Health Sector, July 2009
The Water Act, 2012.