Disaster Management: Are Kenyans ready for El Niño?

It is important to plan, prepare and practice for a natural disaster. Image from http://disasterpreparednessmadesimple.com/disaster-preparedness-made-simple

Failing to plan is planning to fail. –Alan Lakein

The weather man has been sounding the alarm about the impending El Niño rains for almost two months now, and Kenyans have reacted to these announcements in varied ways.

Some are irate that the Meteorological department is playing its alarmist games once more, while others are worried that their homes in flood zones will be wiped away, so they have tried to put up some shaky reinforcements owing to a lack of means to prepare well enough.

Despite the ongoing countdown towards the onset of the El Niño rains, many Kenyans, including the authorities aren’t adequately prepared for the looming calamity. Owing to the uncertainty, most have decided to cross that bridge when disaster strikes, if it does at all.

Of course whether the rains will pour or not is debatable, however, we all need to be prepared well in advance. Find some tips on how to prepare for El Niño here.

It is important to plan, prepare and practice for a natural disaster. Image from http://disasterpreparednessmadesimple.com/disaster-preparedness-made-simple
It is important to plan, prepare and practice for a natural disaster. Image from http://disasterpreparednessmadesimple.com/disaster-preparedness-made-simple

Preparing for a natural calamity such as El Niño which may or may not occur is obviously difficult, but it is still vital so as to prevent loss of life and injuries, and to facilitate a quick recovery and the rebuilding process afterwards.

This situation can be likened to a pregnancy. When a woman conceives, the signs continue becoming more evident over the course of the pregnancy. So the family prepares to welcome the child while bearing in mind that anything could go wrong thus compromising the child and failing everyone’s expectations. Yet, the worry and fear doesn’t deter one from planning anyway.

Proper disaster management, as indicated by the Red Cross and Red Crescent, calls for the organization and management of resources and responsibilities for dealing with all humanitarian aspects of emergencies, in particular preparedness, response and recovery in order to lessen the impact of disasters.

Following the lessons learnt from the 1997 El Niño rains, the county governments especially in flood zones such as Tana basin and Nyando should have already had these measures in place by now, rather than have people run around like headless chicken in the eleventh hour.

By now, embankments should have been reinforced and alarm levels tested. Each member of the community in a flood zone should have been given information and procedures on how to react and where to go when the rains begin. The people should also have been taken through a Government run mock drill to ensure there is a clear understanding of the procedures, and to anticipate any challenges. Funding, relief supplies and mobilization of emergency services should already be on standby and not under discussion in executive meetings as is the case.

As the Government gets its act together, each of us must also play our part. Take for example, the residents of Kilimani founded a scheme last year dubbed the Kilimani Project Foundation which is run by members of the Kilimani community. The foundation has been running a campaign labelled #KilimaniRising which brings people from various areas in Nairobi together to clean streets, waterways, and neighborhoods. Recently, the members have been gathering and sharing information useful in mapping out #Elnino hotspots.

Residents on NHC Langata Court which is adjacent to the Kibera slums, have also been gearing up for the floods by joining hands to clear clogged trenches and waterways, and raising funds amongst themselves towards the reinforcement of their perimeter walls which were weakened by the recent flash floods.

Whether or not El Niño will come, we must be ready. These are few examples of communities choosing to take charge rather than blindly waiting only to cry out “Ooh tunaomba serikali saidia!”

“We cannot stop natural disasters but we can arm ourselves with knowledge: so many lives wouldn’t have to be lost if there was enough disaster preparedness.”
Petra Nemcova

In addition to the tips on how to prepare for El Niño, here are a few suggestions on how you can participate in managing the disaster;

1. Donate to disaster relief agencies such as the Red Cross who need funding for their emergency operations, dry foods such as grains, clothes and warm beddings or start off your own community’s disaster management reserve.

2. Learn first aid, you never know who may need your help.

3. History repeats itself, so learn and share information from previous events like the 1997 floods and the May 2015 flash floods, especially on how to react when trapped in a flood situation.

Also, be in the know of all the El Niño hotspots. In Nairobi, they include; Highrise estate, Loresho along the bypass, Muthangari, Kileleshwa Ring Road interchange, Maziwa-Zimmerman Kamiti Road, River Bank area along Baba Dogo-Outer Ring Road, Lavington- Chalbi Drive, Garden Estate, Thome Roysambu, Kahawa west, Donholm, Mbagathi /Langata Road Roundabout near Tmall, Nairobi West, Ruai, Utawala, Mukuru slums and Kibera slums.

4. Learn some counselling to assist people who may be traumatized in affected areas.

5. Be informed and stay alert and safe. Although there may be many electricity outages as the rains pour which will affect how you get information from media broadcasts or online, find alternatives like a battery operated radio so as to remain in the know all the time in order to keep yourself safe first.

Remember “it wasnt raining when Noah built the ark.” – Howard Ruff.

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