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Survivors of El Niño rains in Kibra share their past experiences



Photo courtesy The Star

In a series of compelling firsthand accounts, individuals who weathered the tumultuous El Niño rains of the past have shared their experiences and lessons learned. Pastor Hezron Ondati, now 70 years old, vividly recalls the havoc wreaked by El Niño, underscoring its destructive impact on communities.
“I recall that heavy rain season when numerous properties were destroyed, and we struggled to find enough food. The relentless rains swept away our belongings, leaving us in dire circumstances.”
According to Ondati, the trauma and severe damage witnessed are unforgettable, and he can only hope that such an event will never recur in his lifetime.

Jackson Karuga, aged 69, who has lived in Kibra for over 20 years, emphasizes the critical importance of preparedness for El Niño.
“I am particularly concerned about those who live near rivers. I can’t help but express my apprehension regarding the potential loss of lives as I vividly recall the tragic events of the last El Niño.”
Joseph Wanyama, 49 years old, who has resided in Kibra since 1994, recounts the hardships endured during the protracted 1997/1998 El Niño season.
“It was an exceedingly long and challenging season, and many of us struggled with hunger because we couldn’t go to work. It became clear that our country needs better planning for such situations.”
Wanyama recalls the dreadful season; he and his colleagues had to hold hands to cross flooded roads cautiously. Upon his return, his Laini saba house had been swept away.

Loise Magove, a 64-year-old resident of Lindi, paints a picture of the chaos that engulfed Kibra during El Niño rains.
“I recall the chaos that engulfed Kibra during that period. It was a time of immense hardship. The continuous rainfall left us with a severe scarcity of food. Like many residents, Magove had to find makeshift solutions and techniques to protect her house from being swept away.”
The Kenya Meteorological Department issued a forecast predicting heavy rains across many parts of Kenya from September 2023 to January 2024. In response to this forecast, the Nairobi County government has unveiled an ambitious plan to safeguard the city’s residents from the impending deluge.

Among the measures is the comprehensive cleaning and unclogging of drainage systems to avert flooding. This initiative includes recruiting 3,500 environmental officers dedicated to this crucial task. Governor Johnson Sakaja, in charge of Nairobi County, has also directed the construction sector’s directorate to identify and evacuate unsafe buildings that could pose a flood threat.

In a resolute stance, Governor Sakaja affirmed that these actions would be taken without hesitation or bias. Additionally, the county government is set to establish an emergency hotline for residents to report El Niño-related emergencies, ensuring a swift response to crises. The county officials have acquired 27 new vehicles and equipment to bolster their emergency response capabilities, spanning work trucks, fire trucks, ambulances, and excavators.
Furthermore, the County government has hinted at its commitment to reducing ambulance response times to a remarkable 9 minutes, a vital move to ensure prompt medical assistance during emergencies. These proactive measures underscore the county’s determination to mitigate the impact of El Niño rains and safeguard the well-being of its residents in the face of impending adversity.
Kibra slum has often been in the spotlight for tragic events, but many hope that the expected El Niño will spare them pain.

Charity Kilei
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