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The Telescope

Kenya’s Disaster Preparedness Failed Kenyans At Hour Of Need

Recently a dam in Solai broke its walls generating a huge disaster. Surging waters swept through an area measuring 10 km, destroying lives and property on its paths. This disaster could have been avoided.

Politicians most notably former Subukia Mp Koigi Wamwere had forewarned about the looming tragedy but institutions charged with the responsibility of adjudicating complaints raised by the public turned a blind eye to the imminent disaster which retrospectively exposes a long trail of systematic failures and a dose of acute and quite frankly deliberate human error in Kenya’s disaster management.

That incident among several others that have occurred in the country uncovered a system that has notoriously fractionated responsibilities across multiple layers of government leaving it ham-fisted to respond when tragedy strikes.

Be it as it may, it is shocking to realize that Kenya potentially boasts of deep linkages in preparedness and international processes while responding to disasters.

Rescue efforts after the Solai Dam tragedy

Rescue efforts after the Solai Dam tragedy

Kenya has participated in both the Hyogo Framework for Action (2005-2015) and Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030), and was indeed among the first countries to sign up to the Africa Risk Capacity (ARC) – and makes the highest premium contribution in Africa in building resilience to disasters. Locally, there is a national policy that relevant ministries are required to allocate funds to respond to disasters.

In spite of this judicious measures there seems to be a grey area in how these resources interact while they trickle down from the top brass to their engagement at the grassroots level. Notably, coordination is primarily a worrying drift in and beyond disaster management in different functions of the government in the evolving relationship between county and national government.

With proper use of these funds national and county government officials across the country should benefit from knowledge strengthening on: disaster and resilience measurement, climate change dynamics, modelling, disaster response triggers, and thresholds and Kenyans should ultimately be benefactors to seamless policy implementation.

In summary, Kenya’s capacity to prepare and respond to disasters is not a data or information challenge; there are several sources of data, which could be joined up to improve decision-making and service delivery. In actual fact, Kenya is ahead of the other East African countries in regards to technology, data and information, and systems but what is lacking is the culture of preparedness, across and beyond key national functions and that should be dispirited.