Early Warning Communication for Enhanced Anticipatory Disaster Risk: The Status of Flood Early Warning Communication in Lower Tana and Athi Basins



Tana River, Kilifi and Garissa counties experience flooding due to persistent heavy rainfall in the Mt. Kenya and Aberdare ranges region. The flooding affects the socio-economic well-being of the communities therein. Recently, there has been an increase in the frequency and intensity of heavy rains and vulnerability of communities in these counties, exacerbating flooding impacts and this is expected to continue due to climate change.

Although flood early warning information is produced by mandated institutions such as Kenya Meteorological Department and Water Resources Authority, a survey in the three counties shows that not all stakeholders are aware of the existence of flood early warning information. In some instances, stakeholders do not appreciate the information since it is not context specific. Further, the format and language that the information is packaged in is not useful for the county stakeholders and the channels that are used for communication are not effective for all levels of decision making for example, community members would appreciate getting the information through radio and SMS. Additionally, some stakeholders lack the capacity to understand translate and integrate early warning information into decision making and sometimes the information is too late for them to take anticipatory action to minimise the impact of floods.

These challenges in communication of early warning information impede anticipatory disaster risk management efforts since without access to information actors cannot adequately anticipate and prepare for disasters. This leads to disasters impacting government and communities and a response culture among humanitarian organisations. Hence the need to develop and enhance early warning communication systems through the development of context specific communication strategies that detail out; communication structures, timing and format for different actors. To foster ownership and trust among stakeholders and communities they should be involved in the development of the strategies and communication of early warning information. Constant engagement between producers of the information and users/stakeholders as well as sensitization foster trust amongst them and in the early warning information.

The operationalization of communication systems is resource intensive and the counties need to invest in the process in order to ensure effective communication that can translate onto anticipatory action to reduce the impacts of floods.