Building public health resilience amid heavy rains and flooding

Mathare River

A flooded Mathare River as it passes through Mathare Slums Gitathuru area on April 27, 2024.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

In times of crises, ensuring safety isn’t a choice – it’s an imperative. As the cost of the heavy rains and flooding continues to mount, reaching a staggering 210 lives lost and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake, safeguarding public health is paramount.

The ramifications extend far beyond physical damage, encompassing the insidious spread of waterborne diseases like cholera, typhoid, as well as the psychological toll inflicted upon affected communities.

The Ministry of Health is spearheading relief initiatives aimed at providing essential supplies such as mosquito nets and water treatment chemicals to affected areas. The ministry and partners have deployed officers to carry out risk assessment, mainly targeting Water, sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) initiatives, especially in Nairobi County.

These assessments encompass crucial aspects such as toilets, availability of safe water, waste management, access to health facilities, and monitoring infectious diseases. Additionally, the provision of dignity pads and addressing psychosocial needs are being prioritised.

The government is also encouraging simple yet impactful habits such as handwashing and food safety to protect public health. These habits, when practised diligently, can significantly reduce the risk of waterborne and foodborne illnesses.

However, addressing the public health challenges demands a comprehensive approach that extends beyond immediate relief efforts. It necessitates a collaborative endeavour involving disaster preparedness, community engagement and sustainable environmental practices.

Collective action is paramount. Multisectoral approaches and a whole government strategy are essential for effective waste management and the promotion of high hygiene standards. Support must be provided to vulnerable populations and those impacted by these challenges.

Kenyans must take preventive measures seriously to safeguard their health. Accessing essential services at the nearest health facility or through consultation with community health promoters is crucial. Let us remain vigilant, follow government guidelines and prioritise health and safety as we navigate these turbulent times together.

Through solidarity and resilience, we can overcome these challenges and emerge stronger, building a brighter future for all.

The writer is the Principal Secretary of the State Department of Public Health and Professional Standards.

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