HRW calls for proactive measures to combat Kenya floods News
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HRW calls for proactive measures to combat Kenya floods

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday accused Kenya’s government of not proactively addressing nationwide flash floods. The rights group called upon the state to fulfill its obligation to safeguard vulnerable groups, including children, the elderly, people with disabilities, and those residing in high-risk areas, from the adverse impacts of the ongoing floods.

Citing evidence from social media videos and mainstream media reports, HRW highlighted the inadequate government assistance received by affected individuals in securing safety and accessing essential services. The organization noted that Kenya’s lack of action comes despite the nation’s robust National Climate Change Action Plan 2023-2027 and established disaster response protocols, which identify flooding as a prominent risk and outline mitigation strategies.

HRW Africa Researcher Nyagoah Tut Pur commented:

The unfolding devastation highlights the government’s obligation to prepare for and promptly respond to the foreseeable impacts of climate change and natural disasters. Kenyan authorities should urgently ensure support to affected communities and protect populations facing high risk.

Torrential rains have caused havoc in Kenya since March, claiming 210 lives, affecting 196,000, displacing 33,100 households, injuring 125, and leaving 90 missing. These calamitous events have been exacerbated by the El Niño weather pattern, potentially fueled by climate change.

In May 2023, the Kenya Meteorological Department issued warnings of heightened rainfall attributed to El Niño, spanning from May-July and October-December and persisting into early 2024. Despite the allocation of 10 billion Kenyan shillings for a nationwide response, as mandated by the Public Finance Management (Amendment) Act of 2023, and the directive for counties to dedicate 2 percent of their budgets to disaster preparedness, a comprehensive national response plan was conspicuously absent. President William Ruto’s premature dismissal of the anticipated El Niño rains in October 2023 further compounded the situation. Subsequent heavy rains triggered devastating floods, landslides and waterborne disease outbreaks, resulting in the loss of 1,781 lives across multiple regions.

President Ruto established a multi-agency response team on April 24, 2024, in response to prolonged heavy rains and escalating casualties. The government also issued a 48-hour ultimatum on April 30 for residents in high-risk areas to voluntarily relocate or face forced eviction. Meanwhile, the country braces for Cyclone Hidaya, expected to unleash strong winds, large ocean waves and heavy rainfall along the coast from Sunday. Neighboring countries such as Burundi and Tanzania have also grappled with severe flooding and landslides.