Floods Leave a Trail of Destruction in Homabay
An estimated 1,500 people and 2,000 students are in need of emergency support after raging floods hit south west Kenya.
Two months ago, residents of Homabay County could never have predicted that the rainy season, which allows them to plant crops and feed their animals, would cause so much destruction.
However, as the rains intensified, they swelled streams and rivers, creating pounding flood waters that swept away people, animals, crops, and buildings.
Residents React to the Damage
The floods hit vast sections of Homabay, leaving families marooned. Five homes have been hit in the latest storm, with families forced to seek alternative accommodation in nearby school buildings.
Worst hit were East Kochia and West Kochia in the Asego division, and Riana in the Ndhiwa district.
Houses were destroyed, school roofs ripped off, and food and crops have been damaged. Many schools are now unable to function. At Ojunge primary school, a heavy rainstorm blew off the roof of two classrooms and the administration block. School records, books, and other stationery items have been destroyed.
The school’s head teacher, Morris Lenya, said: “We do not know how we’ll accommodate the 612 pupils in this school when we re-open after the disaster. Already, we had a shortage of classrooms and now we’ve suffered damages running up to $24,000 dollars."
In a nearby homestead, Mary Odero Onyango, 59, explained how the roof of her kitchen was ripped off and she is now being forced to cook in the open.
“It started raining normally but soon a thick low cloud appeared accompanied by a heavy storm. I hid in my other house and when the rains stopped I found the roof of my kitchen hanging off,” said Onyango.
In Got Kokech, a classroom was destroyed after being hit by a falling tree. Latrines in the school collapsed during the floods, threatening to undermine previous school and community-led total sanitation efforts, which had eliminated open defecation.
The situation is replicated in most parts of the county. Government officials and other relief agencies are struggling to put emergency measures in place.
Plan Launches Emergency Response Plan to Aid Residents
Plan Kenya’s Homabay Program Unit office is intervening to help ease the challenges faced by the communities.
A Disaster Response Team led by Program Unit Manager Richard Otieno and Livelihood Program officer Peter Warui has coordinated relief efforts, in collaboration with other agencies.
“We are closely working with the District Disaster Management Committee whose initial rapid assessment in affected areas helped us identify areas in which we could intervene,” said Warui.
Plan is providing food, mosquito nets, and water treatment kits to flood victims. Affected schools will also receive books and stationery to ensure that learning continues when schools re-open for second term in May.
“We shall facilitate for emotional support at individual and group level to ensure victims come to terms with the situation and move on. We are seeking to work with the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) kitties in the area to ensure infrastructure particularly buildings and roads to learning institutions are rebuilt,” added Warui.
The Plan Kenya team has already visited 14 schools affected by winds and floods.
Due to flooded toilets, there is the fear of residents contracting water borne illnesses. Part of the relief effort includes the provision of water-treatment chemicals and aqua taps to provide clean drinking water.
“Residents here fetch water for domestic use from nearby ponds and pools which are now contaminated by fecal waste from the flooded latrines. Protection issues also emerge because when learning is disrupted owing to rains, cases of children dropping out of school increase,” said Donald Omingo, Plan's Program Coordinator in Homabay.
There are also fears that cases of children dropping out of school may increase.
At Ojunge primary school, one boy had dropped out of school following a similar disaster in 2012. The school administration managed to convince him to return.
The first consignment of relief supplies including 245 bags of maize, 150 bags of beans, 225 cartons of cooking oil, and 175 cartons of water treatment kits is ready for distribution to affected families.
“Overall, our core mandate is not providing relief. However, we cannot bury our head in the sand and feign ignorance of the problems facing the people. That is why we have moved to provide emergency aid because when such disasters strike, our programs are affected,” said Nancy Apenji, health program officer for Plan in Homabay.