Nearly half a million Kenyans in 92,432 households are now affected by floods resulting from the El Nino rains, with the government on Wednesday rolling out new measures and cautioning citizens against crossing flooded rivers.
In a statement, Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen said motorists who cross flooded roads and bridges will lose their driver’s licences and could be prosecuted and jailed for attempted suicide.
“I want to put all our drivers on notice that should we find you crossing or having crossed a dangerously flooded road, we will cancel your licence and even prefer charges of attempted suicide against you,” Mr Murkomen warned on Wednesday as assessed Mbogolo Bridge in Kilifi County which was recently washed away by floods.
The CS said that more than half of the deaths that have so far been recorded since October would have been avoided had motorists avoided the risk of crossing flooded roads.
According to a report released by the Ministry of Interior on Tuesday, a total of 120 people have lost their lives and 89,000 households displaced since the floods started in October.
To address this, Mr Murkomen said, it is incumbent upon drivers to observe caution when on the road and avoid crossing washed-away and flooded roads.
“Do not be the reason why someone dies just because you want to rush to your next destination even when the roads are flooded. There is no hurry, you better be late for a week or even a month but save lives,” he cautioned.
Commenting on the rehabilitation of roads destroyed by the floods, Mr Murkomen said efforts were underway.
"As a ministry, we have activated our road agencies and contractors to begin the process of repairing roads washed away by the floods," he said.
On Tuesday, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua said that, out of the 98 people killed, 37 had “unnecessarily risked their lives” by crossing flooded sections of a river or road.
“I want to put all drivers on notice that, should we find you crossing or having crossed a dangerously flooded road, we will cancel your licence and even charge you with attempted suicide,” the CS said.
Government Spokesperson Isaac Mwaura announced that, while no deaths have been recorded since yesterday, there has been a spike in disease outbreaks such as malaria, cholera and diarrhoea. Garissa, Kwale, Madera and Wajir have recorded a total of 391 cases of diarrhoea, while Lamu County has recorded 94 cases of cholera.
“Increased cases of malaria have been reported in Mandera County, 10 of which have been confirmed, while 539 remain suspected cases. The Ministry of Health continues to monitor the situation. In the rest of the country,10 counties — Isiolo, Samburu, Kwale, Homa Bay, Makueni, Tharaka Nithi, Lamu, Taita Taveta, Meru and Kisumu — are on high alert,” Mr Mwaura said.
Mr Mwaura announced that, in a bid to stop the rise of malaria cases, the government has purchased 120,000 mosquito nets whose distribution will begin on Thursday.
He added that, as part of emergency response efforts, the government yesterday distributed food to Mombasa, Kwale, Lamu, Tana River, Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Marsabit, Busia, Kitui, Samburu and Isiolo counties.
The government is also stockpiling food and non-food items in Tana River, Garissa, Wajir and Mandera counties, which have been hardest-hit by the floods.
Mr Mwaura also announced that the government will soon disburse Sh625.8 million to help half a million people in Turkana, Mandera, Marsabit, Wajir, Samburu, Tana River, Garissa and Isiolo counties. The money will be disbursed under the cash transfer programme under Hunger and Safety Net Funds.
“Displacement camps have been set up across North Eastern and Coast regions, with the distribution currently at 11 camps in Mandera, 16 camps in Wajir, 19 camps in Garissa and 35 camps in Tana River. An additional six camps have also been established in Kilifi, Makueni and Taita Taveta counties, bringing the number to 118 camps,” Mr Mwaura said.
“The rising levels of our dams also warrants caution and residents are advised to move to higher ground as national government administrative officers liaise with county governments to establish temporary shelters,” he added.
He also announced that rainfall is expected to continue pounding the southern parts of the country, including Narok, Kajiado, Mombasa, Taita Taveta, Kwale, Kilifi, Migori, Bomet, Kericho, Kisii and Homa Bay counties. Following the damage of some roads, Mr Mwaura stated that the government is carrying out a survey to determine the cost of repairs.
Meanwhile, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) has called on Kenyans who are planning to travel for the Christmas festivities to put off their plans. They have also called on the government to exercise prudent spending of funds allocated for El Nino emergency response.
“This cautionary measure is essential, especially considering the heightened vulnerability of children and individuals facing adverse conditions. We advise Kenyans to take utmost care and not risk crossing any flooded areas,” said Rev Martin Kivuva, the KCCB Chairperson.