Kenya

Coping with floods

Format
News and Press Release
Source
Posted
Originally published
DATE=12/1/97
TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT
NUMBER=5-38256
TITLE=NORTHERN KENYA FLOODING
BYLINE=SONYA LAURENCE GREEN
DATELINEÚDAAB
CONTENT=
VOICED AT:

INTRO: HEAVY RAINS AND FLOODING HAVE HIT THE HORN OF AFRICA HARD IN THE PAST MONTH. RELIEF SUPPLIES ARE NOW ARRIVING IN THE WORST-HIT AREAS, AS AID AGENCIES STEP UP EFFORTS TO REACH FLOOD VICTIMS. SONYA LAURENCE GREEN FLEW TO NORTHEASTERN KENYA, WHERE REFUGEES WERE WASHED OUT OF THEIR HOMES, AND REPORTS ON HOW THEY ARE COPING.

TEXT:

/// AIRPLANE SOUNDS, FADE UNDER ///

FLYING OUT OF NAIROBI'S WILSON AIRPORT, WE HEAD NORTHEAST TO THE SMALL KENYAN TOWN OF DADAAB. IT IS HOME TO 122-THOUSAND REFUGEES IN THREE CAMPS -- IFO, DAGAHALEY, AND HAGADERA. MOST OF THE REFUGEES ARE FROM SOMALIA. SOME COME FROM ETHIOPIA, SUDAN, AND UGANDA.

PETER KESSLER, A SPOKESMAN FOR THE U-N REFUGEE AGENCY (U-N-H-C-R) POINTS OUT THE CAMPS AS THEY COME INTO VIEW BELOW.

/// KESSLER ACT ///

THAT'S OUR REFUGEE CAMP STRAIGHT AHEAD THERE. THERE ARE THREE REFUGEE CAMPS IN THE REGION, VERY VERY REMOTE AND DURING PARTS OF THE YEAR WE ONLY HAVE AIRPLANE ACCESS.

/// END ACT ///

NORMALLY, NORTHEASTERN KENYA IS BONE-DRY, A PARCHED LANDSCAPE WITH RED EARTH AND BRUSHY SCRUB ON THE GROUND. BUT NOW, AFTER THE HEAVY RAIN, IT IS UNUSUALLY LUSH AND GREEN, WITH BIG PATCHES OF FLOODED PLAINS.

/// KESSLER ACT ///

THIS REGION ADJOINING SOMALIA IS BASICALLY SEMI-ARID DESERT WHERE IT RAINS BASICALLY A COUPLE TIMES A YEAR.

WE'VE HAD IN THE SPACE OF A FEW WEEKS THE KIND OF RAINS THE REGION GETS IN THE SPACE OF YEARS, AND THE ENTIRE REGION NOW IS VERY VERY GREEN, BUT ALSO VERY VERY FLOODED WITH HUGE PUDDLES OF WATER STRETCHING FOR SQUARE KILOMETERS.

/// END ACT ///

OF THE THREE REFUGEE CAMPS, BY FAR THE WORST-HIT BY FLOODS HAS BEEN IFO CAMP, WHICH LIES IN AN ANCIENT RIVER BED AND FILLED UP QUICKLY WITH WATER WHEN THE HEAVY RAINS HIT.

/// KESSLER ACT ///

WELL WE'RE FLYING OVER IFO NOW. YOU CAN SEE THAT VAST PARTS OF THE CAMP ARE STILL FLOODED WITH WATER AND A LOT OF REFUGEES HAVE HAD THEIR FOOD SUPPLIES CONTAMINATED WHEN THE WATERS ROSE IN THEIR OWN SHELTERS. THE RATIONS WE HAVE RIGHT NOW ARE SUFFICIENT FOR A FULL RATION ONLY UNTIL MID-DECEMBER. AND AFTER THAT WE'LL HAVE TO DO A PARTIAL DISTRIBUTION UNTIL W-F-P CAN GET IN MORE FOOD SUPPLIES.

/// END ACT ///

THE PROBLEM IS -- FLOODING HAS WASHED OUT THE MAIN ROAD LINKING THE DADAAB CAMPS TO KENYA'S PROVINCIAL TOWN OF GARISSA. FROM THE AIR IT IS EASY TO SEE STREAMS OF WATER CRISS-CROSSING THE ROAD, POOLING IN SOME AREAS, MAKING IT IMPASSABLE.

MUDDY WATER LINES THE LOCAL AIRSTRIP WHERE THE CESSNA PLANE LANDS. REFUGEES ARE WADING THROUGH THE KNEE-DEEP POOLS, CARRYING BUNDLES ON TOP OF THEIR HEADS. A GROUP OF ABOUT TWO-THOUSAND REFUGEES IS GATHERED AT A U-N-H-C-R CENTER. THEY ARE GIVEN NEW RATION CARDS FOR FOOD, AND FRESH PLASTIC SHEETING BEFORE BEING MOVED TO A NEW SITE, AWAY FROM THE ATER-SOAKED CAMP THEY HAD TO FLEE.

/// OPT // SOUNDS OF TRUCK'S ENGINE RUNNING, REFUGEES CROWDING ABOARD - FADE UNDER ///

/// OPT ///

GROUPS OF REFUGEES SQUEEZE ABOARD HUGE OPEN-TOPPED TRUCKS, CLUTCHING CHILDREN, POTS AND PANS, OR WHATEVER THEY COULD SALAVAGE FROM THE FLOODING. THE TRUCKS RUMBLE OFF THROUGH THE HIGH WATERS TO A NEW SITE, WHERE REFUGEE WORKERS ARE JUST BREAKING GROUND.

/// END OPT ///

REFUGEES HAVE BEEN ORGANIZED TO DIG TRENCHES AND SANDBAG AREAS TO PROTECT THEMSELVES. WEATHER FORECASTERS ARE PREDICTING HEAVY RAINS INTO JANUARY, AND ANOTHER EPISODE OF FLOODING IS LIKELY.

/// SOUNDS OF SPLASHING, CHILDREN LAUGHING - CARRY UNDER AND SLOWLY FADE ///

BACK AT THE OLD IFO CAMP SITE, HUGE POOLS OF MUDDY WATER ARE FILLED WITH CHILDREN LAUGHING, SPLASHING, AND SWIMMING. THIS IS A RARE TREAT FOR KIDS LIVING IN THE NORMALLY SEMI-ARID, PARCHED
LANDSCAPE. BUT AS THE U-N.'S PETER KESSLER EXPLAINS, THE FUN ALSO CARRIES RISKS.

/// KESSLER ACT ///

ALL THE KIDS, THE REFUGEE BOYS AT ALL THE CAMPS ARE TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE HIGH WATER BY SWIMMING IN THE PONDS AND POOLS THAT HAVE COLLECTED. WE'VE TRIED TO EDUCATE THE KIDS NOT TO DO THIS BECAUSE OF THE HEALTH PROBLEMS THAT IT WILL BRING. BUT THAT'S HAD NO AFFECT FOR REFUGEE CHILDREN WHO HAVE NO CHANCE IN THEIR LIVES TO EVER TAKE A SWIM.

/// END KESSLER ACT ///

MR. KESSLER SAYS THE WATER IS FULL OF HUMAN AND ANIMAL WASTE. THE FLOODING WASHED UP MORE THAN ONE-THOUSAND PIT LATRINES, AND THE FILTH IS NOW COLLECTED IN THE PUDDLES THE CHILDREN ARE PLAYING IN.

/// OPT ///

ISSA ABDI IS A 14-YEAR-OLD BOY WHO CAME TO THE CAMP WITH HIS FAMILY IN 1992. TAKING A BREAK FROM HIS SWIM, DRIPPING WET, HE SAYS HE IS NOT AWARE OF ANY PROBLEMS WITH THE WATER.

/// OPT // ABDI ACT ///

(Q) HAS ANYBODY TOLD YOU THAT THE WATER IS DIRTY?

(ABDI) NO IT IS NOT DIRTY, OUTSIDE OF US.

(Q) BUT THE WATER ALSO CARRIES A LOT OF THINGS THAT CAN MAKE YOU SICK, HAS ANYBODY TOLD YOU THAT?

(ABDI) NO, I HAVE NEVER BEEN SICK, SO THE WATER IS GOOD.

/// END ACT // END OPT ///

MARIA CATHLEEN ROSSI IS A DOCTOR AT IFO CAMP WITH THE CHARITY MEDICINS SANS FRONTIERES, OR DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS. SHE SAYS COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKERS HAVE TRIED TO EDUCATE THE REFUGEES, BUT THE MESSAGE IS NOT ALWAYS HEEDED. SHE SAYS AID WORKERS ARE BRACING FOR AN OUTBREAK OF CHOLERA AND OTHER WATER-BORNE DISEASES.

/// ROSSI ACT ///

WE EXPECT THAT THERE WILL BE CHOLERA, AND THAT WILL BE VERY MUCH MORE DIFFICULT. IT WILL SPREAD VERY QUICKLY IF IT COMES, AND THEREFORE WE'RE PREPARING FOR IT, BUT AT THE MOMENT WE CAN KEEP THINGS UNDER CONTROL.

/// END ACT ///

/// SOUND OF WATER POURING OUT OF TAP INTO JERRYCANS ///

THE CHARITY CARE HAS RUN WATER TAPS THROUGHOUT THE CAMPS, SUPPLYING CLEAN WATER FOR DRINKING AND WASHING. WAITING FOR HER TURN AT THE TAP, ZAINAB SHEIK HUSSEIN EXPLAINS THROUGH A TRANSLATOR THAT HER FAMILY LOST EVERYTHING IN THE FLOODS.

/// OPT // ZAINAB TRANSLATOR ACT ///

FLOOD HAS CARRIED AWAY EVERYTHING IN MY HOUSE. SAME LIKE MYSELF, EVERYTHING, MY NEIGHBORS, OTHER PEOPLE IN THE CAMP, ALL THEIR PROPERTY, THEIR FOOD WERE CARRIED AWAY BY THE FLOODS.

/// END ACT // END OPT ///

MRS. HUSSEIN SAYS SHE URGENTLY NEEDS NEW SUPPLIES.

/// ZAINAB TRANSLATOR ACT ///

WE NEED UTENSILS, WE NEED BLANKETS, WE NEED FOOD, WE NEED PLASTIC SHEETS, SO WE WANT VERY VERY VERY QUICKLY THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES OR OTHER AGENCIES TO DO SOMETHING FOR US. WE CANNOT LIVE THE WAY WE ARE LIVING RIGHT NOW JUST BECAUSE WE DON'T HAVE ANYTHING.

/// END ACT ///

LIKE MRS. HUSSEIN, THOUSANDS OF OTHERS IN FLOOD-HIT KENYA, SOMALIA AND ETHIOPIA ARE WAITING AS AID AGENCIES RUSH IN EMERGENCY SUPPLIES TO VICTIMS OF THE WORST FLOODING IN MORE THAN
30 YEARS. (SIGNED)

NEB/SLG/JWH

01-Dec-97 11:46 AM EST (1646 UTC)