The last three months have seen our region experience the worst flood ever recorded, second only to the disastrous El Nino of 1997. The current rains, previously considered a blessing, quickly degenerated into a natural disaster.
The heavy rains led to Tana river bursting its banks and flooding most villages within the hirola’s region. Hundreds of families were left homeless and have been forced to relocate to higher and safer grounds within Garissa town. These locals have had their houses including household items and other valuables washed away. Despite this, they consider themselves lucky, as some lives have unfortunately been cut short by the raging floods.
The farming communities along the Tana river are amongst the worst hit. Having cultivated their farms about 2 months ago in anticipation of good rainfall, they are reeling in shock as they cannot even access their farms to assess losses. Thousands of farming acres have had their crops swept away including livestock.
Our conservation operations have also not been spared as most of our project sites have been cut off. Most roads/paths are flooded and are currently rivers while some major highways have been washed off. The Kenya National Highways Authority has issued warnings to motorists against using some highways within our region including Garissa-Malindi, Ijara, Bura and Masalani roads. With the destruction of most road networks, our rangers have experienced a lot of difficulties in conducting their regular activities that include patrols, community education, manual cutting of invasive trees and reseeding. National humanitarian efforts have also had numerous challenges while rescuing those marooned in the floods.
The crisis has been escalated further with the outbreak of waterborne diseases. Safer grounds housing displaced families lack adequate sanitation thereby exposing them to diseases like malaria, cholera, typhoid and flus. To ensure the safety of our rangers especially during this outbreak season, we distributed mosquito nets to them and their families. This is important particularly to our scouts whose families have been displaced. The scouts are thankful to the donors for the support they have received so far.
Further, locals and their livestock face disease epidemics such as the rift valley fever (an acute, fever-causing viral disease). There already is an alert issued by the national government of Kenya on Rift valley fever. These fatal, infectious diseases affect humans, livestock and some wildlife species. In a region where people practice pastoralism, this would be a serious epidemic and therefore there is an immediate need to initiate vaccinations and avert human, livestock and wildlife mortalities.
Snakes and crocodiles from the Tana river are also another threat brought by the floods. The public has been advised to be extra cautious since the probability of encountering these predators are high.
The current heavy rains will continue pounding our region for a while as there is a ‘Heavy rain advisory’ for our region issued by the Kenya Meteorological department. Even though this disrupts our conservation activities, our rangers currently involve themselves in humanitarian efforts to aid those marooned by the floods.