Families displaced, crops destroyed as floods wreak havoc in Western Kenya

Residents of Ombaka, Kisumu County, wade through flooded compounds on Saturday morning.  

Photo credit: Angeline Ochieng | Nation Media Group

On a chilly Saturday morning at Nyamasao Primary School in Kisumu County, Rita Atieno, 69, lights a charcoal stove to prepare tea and sweet potatoes for her family of seven.

Then she makes her way into the dimly lit classrooms, where blankets and worn mattresses are scattered on the floor and utensils are piled in a corner.

There are mosquito nets in the classrooms where a handful of children under the age of five still are sleeping.

The primary school is what Ms Atieno has called home for the past three days after being displaced from her one-and-a-half acre plot of land by floods.

"I left home with nothing, but I am happy that all my family members are safe," says Ms Atieno, adding that her chicken, five sheep and their lambs were swept away by the waters on Wednesday night.

She is one of more than 200 households displaced by flooding in Kisumu County as a result of the ongoing heavy rains.

Residents in Ombaka, Nyando Sub County, have also suffered a massive loss of property, including farmland and animals, swept away by the heavy waters.

Ms Atieno decried the state of poor sanitation, lack of bedding and clean water as families crowded into the school.

Homa Bay residents plead for help as floods wreak havoc

"So far, we have not received any help from the Kisumu County government, the national government or any other organisation," said Ms Atieno, who said they needed food, clean bedding, water and mosquito nets.


A house marooned by floods in Kobala Sub-Location in Rachuonyo North Sub-county on April 11,2024. 

Photo credit: Pool

Mr Joseph Abong'o, one of the residents of Ombaka, said the flooding was caused by the backflow of Lake Victoria and the Nyando River bursting its banks.

Mr Abong'o said he and 60 other evacuees had moved to Nyamasao Primary School earlier this week after the floods left their previous evacuation site in ruins.

The 60-year-old, who is in charge of the new campsite, said he had left his home in November last year after heavy rains and had been staying temporarily at the Nyamasao Dispensary until Wednesday.

"We had to leave the health facility on Wednesday morning after the water level continued to rise and the site was submerged," said Mr Abong'o.

The school, which now serves as a temporary shelter for over 100 households, is also at risk of being submerged as the water level continues to rise.

Only women and young children have been accommodated in the school, while older children and men have sought alternative shelter.

"Most of the victims in this camp have not returned to their homes since November last year, while we have some whose houses have been submerged since 2019," said Mr Abong'o, adding that the floods have made them economically unstable.

Residents of Ombaka, Kisumu County, wade through flooded compounds on Saturday morning.  

Photo credit: Angeline Ochieng | Nation Media Group

He said more families have joined them since Friday night and the number of displaced people is likely to increase by the end of the day.

"For how long is the government going to help us, we are capable people who can farm but the water has rendered our farms useless, we are appealing to the government to speed up the process of constructing the Koru Soin Dam," said Mr Abong'o.

Ombaka Sub Chief Neto Awich said that while more than 200 households had been displaced, more than three hundred birds and over 250 acres of land had been swallowed up by the floods.

A number of residents, he said, had also moved to the homes of relatives and friends living on higher ground.

He said efforts were underway to rescue those still trapped in their homes, while hundreds of residents had been safely moved to an evacuation centre at Nyamasao Primary School.

"More homes are likely to be affected by the floods as volumes of water from the Nyando River and Lake Victoria are still being channelled into the villages," Mr Neto said.

He added that "no deaths have been reported yet, we have been working with some boat operators to rescue families".

He has appealed to both government and non-government organisations to come to their aid while urging locals to move to higher ground.

In Budalangi Constituency, Busia County, more than 600 households have been displaced by heavy rains that have caused flash floods.

Roads have been rendered impassable as heavy rains and floods, exacerbated by the backflow from Lake Victoria, continue to rise, with the weatherman promising heavy downpours in the coming days.

Several houses have been marooned and shops closed as the heavy rains pound the Lake region.

Some of the displaced families are staying with relatives, while others have moved to evacuation centres.

Mr Godfrey Hamala, the Budalangi sub-County flood committee chairman, said four evacuation camps had been set up at Khulwanda, Rukala dispensary, Runyu primary school and Mundere.


Houses submerged in flood waters in Kobala, Rachuonyo North sub-County on April 11,2024.

Photo credit: Pool

Bunyala Central and Bunyala South wards have already been submerged, with crops and some houses destroyed.

Residents are now calling on the disaster management department, the county government and the national government to intervene and provide health and relief food to the victims.

"To mitigate the effects of the floods, we are requesting the government and other well-wishers to help the affected families," said Mr Hamala.

He asked for emergency shelters to be set up at the Mundere Mmust centre, equipped with essential supplies such as food, water and medical assistance to help people in need.

In Homa Bay, families in flood-prone areas have called on the county and national governments to find a permanent solution to the perennial flooding.

The families said they have been forced to leave their homes every year as water from nearby rivers sweeps through the villages.

The floods have now displaced hundreds of families in Rachuonyo North, most of whom have moved to schools and health facilities in their villages.

Affected areas include Wang'chieng and Central Karachuonyo wards in Rachuonyo North sub-County.

Kobala Sub-location Assistant Chief George Oburu said the flooding in his area, which affected up to 500 families, was caused by water from the Miriu River.

"The water level of the Miriu River, which is the cause of the problem, is rising every day. It is only a matter of time before all houses are completely cut off, so it is imperative that families move now," said the administrator.

In central Karachuonyo, more than 150 families in the villages of Nyaola, Kamuga, Kolonde and Kosano have been affected after the Kibuon and Awach Tende rivers burst their banks.

Some of the families have moved to Simbi dispensary and Simbi primary school.

The County Director of Disaster Management, Oscar Abotee, said he had sent a team to assess the situation in the affected areas.