Severe floods have devastated communities near Kenya’s Rift Valley (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)
Disaster ResponseNatural Environment

MAF steps up disaster response to Kenyan floods

17th May 2024

Severe floods have devastated communities near Kenya’s Rift Valley (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)

Floods have devastated communities near Kenya’s Rift Valley (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)

Devastating floods in Kenya have claimed hundreds of lives and displaced thousands of people since torrential rain lashed the country since March. MAF’s disaster response team has been undertaking aerial survey flights and delivering aid to relieve suffering. MAF’s Sean Atkins and Jacqueline Mwende report

Weeks of non-stop rain across Kenya has caused disastrous flooding and landslides, which have claimed at least 220 lives and displaced more than 210,000 people. The deluge has destroyed homes, businesses, schools, roads, bridges and other key infrastructure (source: Reuters).

Kenya’s rainy season, which started in March, is seeing unusually high rainfall which could continue into June as per Kenya’s Meteorology Department. The hardest hit communities are those living near lakes and rivers where banks and dams have burst.

Riverbanks have burst across Kenya (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)

Riverbanks have burst across Kenya (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)

The Kenyan government ordered people living near 178 dams and reservoirs to evacuate. All schools have also closed as a precaution. (source: BBC).

Crops are ruined, which could cause food insecurity and soaring prices (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)

Crops are ruined causing food insecurity & soaring prices (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)

Ruined crops, drowned livestock and submerged roads means reduced access to food sources, which could see Kenya’s food prices soar. This latest catastrophe follows Kenya’s worst drought in 40 years, which the country is still recovering from.

Cholera and malaria are a growing concern

Destruction of sewers, drainage systems, public toilet blocks and drinking water facilities have exacerbated poor sanitation, which is causing outbreaks of malaria and cholera (source: The Telegraph).

Barambate Village in Marsabit County, northern Kenya suffered significant losses and has no medical facilities.

Before MAF’s delivery, these Barambate women were drinking dirty water (credit: Asher Abayo / Sign of Hope)

Before MAF’s delivery, these women drank dirty water (credit: Asher Abayo / Sign of Hope)

The floods destroyed Barambate’s borehole pump, which provided residents with clean water. Now they’re having to drink unsafe and contaminated river water, which has led to a surge in cholera cases.

On 16 May, MAF joined forces with aid organisation ‘Sign of Hope’, delivering 600kg of medical supplies and essential equipment to fight disease in the North Horr and Dukana areas of Marsabit County.

MAF delivers a range of lifesaving supplies to North Horr, Marsabit County (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)

MAF delivers essentials to North Horr, Marsabit County (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)

The cargo comprised of cholera and malaria test kits, water purification tablets (aqua tabs), mosquito nets, soap, oral rehydration medication, jerrycans, Plumpy Nut supplements, blankets and sleeping mats, which will benefit around 200 households.

With MAF, the afflicted are reached quickly

MAF passenger Asher Abayo is Sign of Hope’s regional field coordinator. Asher explains why essential supplies delivered by MAF are critical in reaching the afflicted:

‘We ensure that medical supplies are available to meet the growing demand. With rising cases of cholera, aqua tabs will help residents treat water and store clean, safe drinking water in the jerrycans.

‘With a lot of water left stagnant after the rains, there are a lot of breeding places for mosquitoes which carry malaria. With the provision of mosquito nets, families are protected.

‘We are grateful for the opportunity to fly these essential supplies with MAF. Most of the roads in these locations have become impassible after the floods, but by using MAF, we are sure these supplies will reach affected people quickly.’

Asher Abayo, MAF passenger & regional field coordinator for Sign of Hope

Dukana Airstrip: Asher Abayo (centre) couldn’t do his job without MAF (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)

Dukana Airstrip: Asher (centre) couldn’t do his job without MAF (credit: J. Mwende)

Sororo, a married mother of seven from Barambate Village lost her home and donkeys in the floods. Her livelihood has been destroyed, but she is grateful to MAF for bringing her emergency supplies:

‘Never in my lifetime have I witnessed such severe flooding. We had to seek higher ground to ensure our safety.

‘Thank you. May God bless and strengthen you.’

Flood survivor Sororo (centre) was grateful for MAF’s delivery (credit: Asher Abayo / Sign of Hope)

Flood survivor Sororo (centre) is grateful for MAF’s cargo (credit: A. Abayo/ Sign of Hope)

Sam Baguma, who is managing MAF’s disaster response in Kenya, emphasises the importance of partnering with Sign of Hope:

‘It’s critical that Sign of Hope has provided sleeping mats and blankets to the displaced families up north after most of their belongings were swept away.

‘The aqua tabs and jerrycans will protect families from falling sick with cholera and the soap will help displaced families improve their hygiene.’

North Horr Airstrip - MAF’s cargo will save hundreds of lives (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)

North Horr Airstrip – MAF’s cargo will save hundreds of lives (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)

Rift Valley communities ‘greatly affected’

This delivery of aid follows two MAF aerial survey flights, which gathered data to inform the response from the Kenyan government and aid agencies.

Hundreds of thousands of Kenyans are impacted by flooding (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)

Hundreds of thousands of Kenyans are impacted by flooding (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)

The first survey flight on 9 May from the capital Nairobi flew representatives from Anglican Development Services Kenya, DanChurchAid and Scofield Associates over the Great Rift Valley. The survey took in Lake Naivasha and Lake Baringo which are severely flooded.

Shores around Lake Naivasha and Lake Baringo are severely flooded (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)

Shores around Lake Naivasha & Lake Baringo have flooded (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)

The route also took in Gichiengo, Laiipia National Reserve, Kiambere Dam, Gitaru Dam, Masigna Dam and Tana, which are also greatly affected. Sam saw the devastation first-hand:

‘We went north towards the Rift Valley and could see the escarpments around Kijabe. The mud slides are quite visible and there are signs of severe flooding. We can clearly see that communities around the Rift Valley are greatly affected.’

Even the desert has turned into mud

Some parts of the country have never experienced floods before. Even Marsabit County – a usually arid area in northern Kenya where MAF operates – has been hit.

Even Chalbi Desert in Kenya’s Marsabit County has turned into mud (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)

Chalbi Desert in Marsabit County has turned into mud (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)

On 10 May, MAF’s second aerial survey focused on Marsabit, which is very remote, given its lack of infrastructure and inadequate roads.

On board were representatives from aid agency, Sign of Hope and Christ is the Answer Ministries (CITAM) to assess the situation on the ground.

CITAM went on to visit the far-flung, flood-hit communities of Mataarba, Gororukesa and Dadach Kambi.

MAF’s pilot David Graf (R) flies the CITAM team to Marsabit (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)

MAF’s pilot David Graf (R) flies the CITAM team to Marsabit (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)

The floods have washed away key routes through the Chalbi Desert, which connect villages across the Highlands. This has exacerbated the region’s isolation explains Sam:

‘In between settlements we have a desert. Deserts have thick sand, but now it’s mud. Dirt roads through the desert to get to various communities are completely waterlogged. They are impassable because of the heavy rains.

‘It would normally take five hours to drive from one highland settlement to another, but all these dirt roads are flooded. Now it’s taking people four or five days. We saw trucks that were stuck.

‘It will probably take months for that whole desert to dry out, before these roads are passable again. These communities need the greatest amount of help.’

Sam Baguma, MAF’s disaster response lead in Kenya

Mr Noor – MAF’s fuel supplier in Marsabit, agrees:

‘For truck owners like me, what used to be a swift journey across the Chalbi Desert now spans four days.

‘The relentless rains have severed a major road near North Horr, severely hindering movement to and from the region, leaving individuals unable to travel as freely as before.’

MAF – in it for the long-haul

Sam and the team will continue to support communities after the floods recede (Credit: LuAnne Cadd)

Sam & team will continue to support people after floods recede (Credit: LuAnne Cadd)

Community needs are becoming clearer as the water subsides says Sam:

‘It’s when these waters begin to recede – the impact of mud, the houses sitting in water, the food crops washed away – that’s when you see communities suffering.

‘A lot of emergency relief goes in very quickly at the start, but what we’re seeing a few weeks down the line is that these communities are still greatly affected.’

‘MAF connects with so many different organisations. We want to be the catalyst for help in these communities.’