Kenya

Boost capacity to curb disasters

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Though the El-Nino phenomenon has caused unprecedented damage all over the country, the Government has not acted fast enough to relieve the people's suffering. The floods occasioned by torrential rains have left a devastated infrastructure, destroyed crops and drowned people and livestock, besides leaving many homeless.

It has become clear that we are not fully prepared to deal with such calamities because other than declaring the flood-stricken Coastal strip a disaster zone, nothing much is being done about it.

It is the duty of the Government to fully assist such people instead of leaving it to non-governmental organisations to do their work.

In Tana River and Lamu districts in the Coast Province and in Garissa and Mandera districts in North Eastern Province, food and other basic commodities cannot reach the people because roads and [...] been submerged by the flood water.

Long sections of the Nairobi-Mombasa highway have been reduced to gullies and ruts, making it difficult to move food from upcountry to the Coast, and imported goods from the Coast to the hinterland.

Refugee camps in North Eastern Province have been submerged and the threat of epidemics looms large.

So far, some assistance has been given to the flood victims at Bombolulu and a few ovher areas in the Coast, but this is not enough. Offering Government transport to traders to distribute commodities in North Eastern Province is a good idea, but again, this is inadequate. If the Government mobilised all the resources at its disposal, the victims would suffer less and for a shorter period.

One way to do this is to use the Armed Forces. Kenya boasts of one of the best trained and best equipped forces in this region. These are the people we should rely on in times [...]

Kenya Army personnel are expensively trained and equipped - and well paid, too. The fact that they have been called upon time and again to serve in United Nations peace-keeping missions attests to their capabilities.

But for decades, our soldiers have continued to do routine manoeuvres and then retire with some good pension. Why can't they be deployed to transport relief food to the flood victims?

The military has enough special vehicles and helicopters for'such [...] are also well-versed in evacuation and related procedures. Armed Forces engineers should be used in the reconstruction of the damaged bridges and roads as well as in the restoration of power and telephone lines.

Indeed, the Kenya Army, Navy and Air Force could do this country a lot of good in peace time by undertaking projects such as road construction and repair, and water resources exploitation. They should also be deployed to sink wells, drill boreholes, construct dams and set up projects to harvest rain water. This will be greatly beneficial to the wananchi. Besides saving the country a lot of money that could be used to hire private contractors, this way, the military personnel will be kept occupied.

Another way to assist the victims is to promote Operation Kenyans for Kenyans. A few years ago, at the height of famine, Kenyans were mobilised to donate to an effort to bail out their suffering compatriots. This could be done again. Churches, schools, farmers societies, the Civil Service, manufacturers associations, NGOs and so on, contributions can be made. The Government should then distribute the proceeds itself or use some NGOs to do so. But the NGOs would save the effort from the bureaucracy that is associated with the Government.

For long-term purposes, the National Disaster Fund should be revitalised. The National Youth Service should also play a greater role in dealing with national disasters. The Government should boost its capacity to deal with disasters to restore the people's confidence.

Kaina D.N., Kiambu.

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