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Examining Factors Hindering Kenya’s Emergency Response Capacity



Kenya, a nation making significant strides in Africa’s development landscape, grapples with a multitude of challenges common to many third-world countries. Inadequate infrastructure, a struggling health system, and pervasive poverty are just a few of the hurdles faced by Kenyan citizens, particularly those residing in informal settlements. These obstacles shed light on the limited emergency response capability that persists despite Kenya’s rapid growth.

Joseph Ochieng, a resident of Kibra, vividly recalls a harrowing experience when his wife went into labor during the late hours of the night. Frantically seeking assistance, Ochieng’s attempts to reach an ambulance proved futile. Left with no other recourse, he resorted to enlisting the services of a “bodaboda” (motorcycle taxi) to transport his wife to the hospital.

“At around 10 pm, my wife began experiencing sharp pains. Initially, I urged her to remain calm, suspecting it might be a false alarm, similar to our first child’s birth. However, around 12:25 am, the pain intensified significantly. This prompted me to dial the emergency number, but my calls went unanswered,” Ochieng recounted.

“Despite repeated attempts, I received no response. Faced with this unresponsive situation, I had no choice but to pursue an alternative solution. I reached out to a bodaboda. I can confidently assert that the bodaboda ultimately played a pivotal role in saving my wife’s life,” Ochieng added.

Living in the informal settlements of Kibra, residents often dread the occurrence of fires, knowing all too well the challenges of accessing firefighters promptly.

“Recently, there was a fire outbreak, and chaos ensued. I immediately dialed the emergency number; however, my initial calls went unanswered. After several attempts, I finally managed to establish contact. Firefighters eventually arrived, albeit with a delay, but their response was appreciated,” shared Mr. Kevin, a Kibra resident.

Although Kevin eventually received assistance after persistent efforts, it is evident that emergency response in Kenya does not always function as intended. In developed countries, emergencies are accorded the highest priority, especially when they involve matters of life and death.

The effectiveness of the emergency number in Kenya remains a subject of scrutiny. Further investigation and analysis are necessary to identify the underlying factors contributing to the shortcomings of the nation’s emergency response system. Only by addressing these barriers can Kenya hope to enhance its emergency response capability and ensure the safety and well-being of its citizens in times of crisis.



Ayuma Phominnes
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