Given the latest weather and climate outlook for Kenya in October to December (OND) 2018 by the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) predicting a wet season with prolonged rainfall, the country needs to work on the finalization of a legal framework on disaster management and risk mitigation to enhance preparedness to deal with the situation.
Currently, the National Disaster Operation Centre (NDOC) leads other Government agencies in disaster response in the country, and the approach has been found wanting.Disaster Reduction Mitigation (DRM) Bill 2016 and the National Disaster Management Bill 2018 await Parliamentary debate and forwarding for consideration for enactment. Kenya prepared the Disaster Reduction Mitigation (DRM) Policy 2017 has been in works awaiting both discussion and approval in the National Parliament and the Assent by the President.
The proposed legislations have been lauded by industry and experts as a model disaster response mechanism that meets the country needs.
Parliament should expedite the process ahead of the OND period to help the country have a responsive disaster reduction strategy because our current mechanisms are wanting in terms of response capacities, co-ordination, resource mobilization and communication.
The weather reports predict episodic heavy rainfall events, associated with flash floods, might occur in areas forecasted for enhanced rainfall and at the same time, dry spells likely to occur in areas with increased likelihood of above normal to normal rainfall.
Many times previously, the country has been found napping whenever disasters occur, leaving behind a trail of destruction. Currently, Kenya’s disaster response mechanism is scattered among many ministries, which hampers effective national response whenever the country experiences disasters and poorly handles the resultant fatalities and property disruption.
The country has been working and created a disaster preparedness plan, as a result of the 1997 El Niño condition, which has involved both the national and county governments develop mitigation plans deal with the anticipated unusual weather conditions.
The KMD weather reports on the impending longer rains and related risks in Kenya comes shortly after the Climate Outlook reports by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) which noted that the Great Horn of Africa climate outlook for the period ending December 2018 season shows increased likelihood of above to near normal rainfall over much of the equatorial sector in the Great Horn of Africa.
The report predicts that most parts of the region will receive above to normal rainfall and there is also likelihood of early onset except cross boarder areas that might have late onset of the seasonal rains. The report noted that enhanced wetness forecasted for several parts of the equatorial sector will bring relief to agriculture and livestock sectors especially in areas that had poor June to August (JJA) season. The anticipated climatic conditions mean for people living in cities, landslide and flood prone zones, structural and nonstructural mitigation measures are recommended to avoid damage and losses to lives and properties.
For actors working in the Agriculture and food security sectors, there is need to maximize the good rains to boost crop and forage production, and avoid planting crops in flood and landslide prone zones. Priorities for the livestock sector include massive livestock vaccination and promote livestock insurance, among others.
In the water sector, there is need to close open river banks/dykes and strengthen weak ones; intensify rainwater harvesting; maintain strategic borehole for pastoralists; de-silt water pans and carry out construction of new ones; and carry out effective reservoir management as well as manage conflict in known hotspot zones.
The proposed structure and framework for disaster management bodies in Kenya indicates that the country has made disaster risk reduction a national and local priority with strong institutional framework founded on various legal and policy documents. A number of institutions were created: Ministry of Devolution and ASAL- National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), Ministry of Interior and Co-ordination of National Government- the National Disaster Operation Centre (NDOC), National Disaster Management Unit (NDMU) -under, Ministry of Defence and the National Treasury.
Victor Bwire, Media Council of Kenya