The Telescope

Kenya is far from ready to handle major disaster


Lately national conversations have been suffused with concerns about Kenya’s disaster preparedness. Is the universe telling us something? I sure hope not!

Disaster preparation is no doubt a sensitive topic for many of us. Nobody wants to feel like a ‘Chicken Little’ living under a cloud of “something might happen.”

But this is the reality and having had friends who were directly impacted by tragedies such as terrorist attacks, fires and many other natural and artificial disasters in areas where no one thought were susceptible I think it is about time we handle the matter more seriously.

Undeniably, Kenya is far from being effectively equipped to respond to the variety of emergencies and disasters that are likely to occur and which have indeed occurred in the past. What is more, its top leadership is patently far from being sufficiently sensitized and alive to the natural and human-caused dangers that are essentially waiting to happen.

Ordinarily, the government should be both the first-order mitigator and responder when disaster strikes, but its leadership is apathetic and in effect, disinterested except in the opportunities for media attention .

Moreover, the National Disaster Operations Centre (NDOC) remains technically asleep. This has left the Kenya Red Cross Society as the de facto and much-respected “government” in disaster-response situations all across the country.111007_MZB_CVM01

I found myself agreeing with Raila Odinga’s sentiments over the Garissa University College attack last month: “We cannot have Air Force planes which only fly over Nyayo National Stadium during public holidays and when our children are being massacred in Garissa they are nowhere,” he said.

In Nepal more than 4000 people to lost their lives in the wake of a  powerful earthquake with a 7.8 magnitude. This disaster rekindles memories of tremors that hit Nairobi, Central, Eastern, Rift Valley, and Coast  following volcanic activity on Ol Donyo Lengai, near Lake Natron, Tanzania, in 2007.

At the time, concerns were raised over the possible damage and massive loss of life should a major quake hit  the country. And two months ago, a report revealed that 75 percent of buildings in Nairobi could not withstand a quake.

Evidently, two years shy of a decade later , a little has changed since the tremors.And God forbid, if an earthquake similar to that of Nepal hit Nairobi, the after effects would be unthinkable.

Disaster management is essential to address eventualities in society.

This article was published on May 2 2015 on the People Daily Newspaper.

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