- Since the onset of the March-May long rains, flash floods have been reported in many parts of Kenya with 13 counties being the most affected.
- Floods impact negatively on health and nutrition, beside the distraction of public and private property.
- There must be a shift from a reactive to a proactive approach in dealing with flood disasters.
- Communities should trained and provided with toolkits to tackle floods.
A flood is an expensive natural disaster, resulting in chaos and disruptions to daily and economic activities, damage to infrastructure and even loss of lives. In addition to natural causes, floods are mainly attributed to continuous heavy rainfall, rapid development, unplanned urbanisation, poor drainage system and environmental degradation.
Since the onset of the March-May long rains, flash floods have been reported in many parts of Kenya with 13 counties being the most affected. In the urban settings the situation has been worsened by unsustainable human practices and poor drainage. The flooding problem takes back years of development and costing the government millions of shillings in reconstruction and recovery. The ongoing heavy rains across Kenya, have so far resulted in 29 deaths in flood and landslide-related incidents, 11,700 people displaced and over 10,000 livestock lost.
Social impacts of floods in Kenya include poor health due to contamination of water resources, sewerage problems etc. and increased diseases and epidemics especially water related ones like diarrhoea, dysentery, typhoid, and cholera, and nutrition problems - lack of food as the floods destroy food reserves.
Cholera is one of the main disease outbreaks associated with flooding in the eastern and southern Africa. From January to April 2019 alone, the World Health Organization announced outbreaks in 21 countries with Kenya accounting for 35 percent of the cases reported this year, followed by Mozambique (31 percent).
Cholera is caused by a bacteria called Vibrio cholerae through consuming contaminated food or water. Once in the stomach, the pathogen peels the lining of the stomach, causing diarrhoea that looks like rice water.
The risk of outbreaks can be minimised if the risk is well recognised and disaster-response addresses the provision of clean water as a priority. While floods can be immensely destructive, people’s precautions and reactions can mean the difference between life and death. This emphasises the importance of social preparedness, that is knowledge and capacities of different stakeholders to anticipate, prepare themselves, and respond to an imminent flood risks for efficient flood risk reduction, especially in flood-prone areas.