The Double D: Displacement and Disability

Across the globe, climate change-related displacement has become a norm rather than an exception. Weather and climate hazards that are becoming increasingly common are displacing millions of people. In Kenya’s far flung county of Tana River, 2018 will go down as another year of catastrophic weather. Mid this year, just when the area was recuperating from the 2017 devastating drought, extensive flooding occurred. The toll according to a CWS assessment, speaks of more than 244,000 men, women and children displaced by these floods in addition to destroying an estimated 8,500 acres of land of seasonal crops.

While most impacted people relocated and pitched camp on the higher ground, Jacinta Keziah had nowhere to go. Speaking to her during a recent emergency response beneficiary identification exercise, Jacinta told us that by the time the floods had started, her wheelchair, which is her only means of transport, had a puncture in the tire and even if it was functioning, she had no one to push her. Often in order to get assistance with pushing her chair, people demand money.

“I normally rely on my son, who helps me pull through the muddy pathways, but by the time of the heavy flooding he was not around. He was away in school.”

The 55-year-old and mother of 5, notes that her ordeal begun over 12 years ago, when she woke up one morning and realized she could not walk. No amount of medical attention could salvage her condition, and that is how Jacinta became paralyzed, a lasting impairment that has restricted not only her movements to the wheelchair but also the types of income activities she can engage in. At present, she survives by making mats, which she sells from $5, $8, $12, $15, $20 depending on size., though she is quick to clarify:

“Making one standard mat takes close to 2 months. In between, I survive by begging.”

CWS has been responding to the flood emergency situation in Tana River by providing food and non-food items to affected families. As part of this initiative, we target the most vulnerable groups such as women, the elderly, child-headed households and people living with disabilities. Jacinta is among the people drawn from 505 households that CWS supported during the 3rd phase of floods emergency response; representing villages namely: Matomba, Umoja, Dumi A, Dumi B, Feri, Kachadwe, Pepeoni, Feji and Kiembe.

The relief package consisted of: food items including rice, maize mail and beans, cooking sets, laundry and bathing soaps, underwear, sanitary pads, vegetable seeds and farm tools. Support for this project was provided by a grant from United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).