Kenyans start to recover from deadly floods | WORLD
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

Kenyans start to recover from deadly floods

Several countries are battling the effects of heavy rainfall

A relative mourns at the funeral service for victims of a flood and landslide near Mai Mahiu, Kenya, May 9. Getty Images/Photo by Simon Maina/AFP

Kenyans start to recover from deadly floods

On a Friday earlier this month, community members in the Kenyan town of Mai Mahiu congregated in an open field. Around them, canopies shielded 14 caskets on stands, with photos of the deceased resting on each one.

Pastor Dickson Mugane of the African Inland Church led the mass funeral service for the community members who died in recent weeks of flooding. The dead included at least eight members of the church.

“It was a step in the process towards healing, a way of bringing the people together and mourning together,” Mugane said.

Eastern Africa faces its annual long rainy season between March and May. But this year’s rainfall has been deadly in Kenya: More than 290 people have died as floodwaters inundated communities and destroyed properties and infrastructure.

The destruction affected nearly all of Kenya’s 47 counties, displacing more than 278,000 people. The disaster particularly hit informal settlements and slum communities, where authorities have now demolished many of the makeshift homes along swollen riverbanks in an attempt to lessen future flooding risk. Other countries in the region and elsewhere, including Indonesia and Brazil, are also contending with the effects of deadly floods this year.

In Mai Mahiu in Nakuru County, Kenya, floodwaters washed away homes and bridges and burst a blocked railway line tunnel. Weeks after the flood, families are still trying to return to normalcy.

Mugane said church leaders initially spent the early days of the flooding trying to track down their church members to know who survived. The count came with more stories of loss. One man’s home was washed away with his wife and sister-in-law inside. In another family, only one child survived. Many of those who are now homeless have sheltered in schools or with other relatives.

“We’re trying to figure out a way to provide building materials to some for their homes,” Mugane said.

His church building has now become a hub for the community. After Sunday service, church leaders turn the worship space into a donation point, with clothes and food items fanned out for community members.

Nearby Moffat Bible College has partnered with Mugane and others to support flood victims.

“We would cook here and then transport the food down there and serve the people,” said Pastor Martin Mwanjiku from the college.

Members of the college’s counseling and chaplaincy department have organized counseling sessions for individuals and groups.

“Some of them have very deep theological questions, like asking, “Is God in charge when these things are going on?” Mwanjiku said. “So we go down there with theologians who can help them navigate some of those questions.”

The deadly rainy season coincided with a nearly two-month strike organized by doctors in public hospitals. The doctors union reached a deal with the government on May 8, but communities bore the brunt of their absence. Mwanjiku said private clinics and mission hospitals filled the gap and continued to attend to patients.

Last Monday, many Kenyan schools reopened after the flood caused two earlier delays. Kenya’s Interior Ministry said the damage has left about 100 schools unable to resume classes.

Environmental experts have blamed deforestation and soil disturbance for contributing to the extent of the damage.

Timothy Njagi Njeru, a research fellow at the Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development of the Nairobi-based Egerton University, pointed to poor infrastructure maintenance and disregard for environmental regulations.

Njeru said the implications go beyond the immediate flood response. “The road disruptions will immediately raise the cost of transport as goods will go via longer routes,” he noted. “This will have an effect on businesses in the transport, wholesale and retail sectors.”

In response to the disaster, Kenyan authorities have razed informal settlements in flood-risk zones. President William Ruto promised to give each displaced family the equivalent of $75. But many of them are still cramped in schools, churches, and other public buildings.

Other countries are also battling with heavy deluges. In northern Afghanistan, heavy rains killed more than 300 people and partially or completely destroyed about 1,500 homes. Another round of rainfall killed about 84 people last week. The destruction has left thousands homeless.

“The level of suffering in Afghanistan is already beyond words,” Necephor Mghendi, who heads the country delegation of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said in a news release. “This new disaster is piling yet more pressure on a country already battered.”

Meanwhile, authorities in Indonesia seeded clouds last week to prevent more rain and flash flooding. Monsoon rains drenched the Sumatra island and killed at least 67 people.   

Southern Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul state could face further flooding, as officials warn about rising river levels. Flooding has alreadykilled more than 160 people and displaced more than 600,000 others. On Wednesday, state authoritiesconfirmed the first two deaths from a waterborne disease.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD’s Africa reporter and deputy global desk chief. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University–Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria.


These summarize the news that I could never assemble or discover by myself. —Keith

Sign up to receive World Tour, WORLD’s free weekly email newsletter on international news.

Please wait while we load the latest comments...