Use of earth observation products to enhance humanitarian disaster response - A Case Study of KRCS Response to West Pokot Mudslides in 2019



Kenya is mostly affected by mudslides and floods during two rainfall seasons, namely March-April-May (MAM) and October-November-December (OND).

These landslides, floods and mudslides more often than not lead to loss of human lives, destruction of houses, displacement of people, livestock deaths, loss of livelihoods among other impacts.

This paper highlights the use of earth observation satellite imageries from the Airbus foundation for post-disaster impact assessment during the 2019 OND rainfall season to support effective response.

On the 23rd of November 2019 during the OND rainfall season, mudslides and floods occurred in West Pokot resulting in disruption of road accessibility, loss of human lives, loss of livelihoods, houses destruction and displacement of people.

Due to continuation of rainfall, roads were cut-off and hence it was difficult to access the area to determine the damage and the number of households affected. Through the partnership with Airbus foundation, International Center for Humanitarian Affairs (ICHA) at Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) tasked the Pleiades satellite to acquire imageries of the affected areas five days after the mudslide event.

A spot 6 imagery archive captured on the 15th of May 2019 (months before the mudslide event) was downloaded from the Airbus foundation archives. A comparison of these two imageries through change detection was done in order to extract mudslide and flooding hazard extents. A hazard exposure analysis was done in order to determine houses and roads affected by the mudslide and flood hazard. Results from exposure analysis revealed over 145 houses as being destroyed and over 2.1 kilometers of roads being cut-off. Further analysis was done to determine partially and completely destroyed houses. KRCS was able to use this information for post-disaster recovery interventions such as search and rescue as well as shelter initiation of re-construction houses that were completely damaged by floods and mudslides.

This study has demonstrated the valuable use of satellite imageries from the Airbus Foundation to KRCS through provision of timely and accurate information on impacts of mudslides and floods in remote and inaccessible areas in a cost-effective manner and further support effective and efficient response and recovery. It is highly recommended for KRCS and other Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies to use earth observation satellites for post-disaster assessment especially in remote areas that are inaccessible. This by far would improve their humanitarian capacity in conducting post-disaster assessments in a cost-effective and timely manner.