Kenya scales up flood response as death toll climbs to 76

Kenya's Cabinet on Monday resolved to intensify flood response across the country as the number of people who have died as a result of the devastating flash floods has risen to 76.

The Cabinet, which held an emergency meeting chaired by President William Ruto in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, ordered the release of an additional 10 billion shillings (about 65.5 million U.S. dollars) to county governments to ramp up El Nino mitigation measures.The severe flooding has displaced thousands, caused by unusually active El-Nino rains which are pounding several parts of the East African country.Thousands of homes have been washed away or are marooned, while farmland has been submerged and livestock drowned, according to the government and humanitarian agencies.

Some of the hardest hit areas have been the semiarid lands where pastoralism is the economic driver for livelihoods. These areas are still recovering from the worst drought in 40 years as well, which has led to high rates of malnutrition.

The Cabinet noted that 38 of the country's 47 counties are within the Alarm Stage, a stage characterized by flash floods, general flooding in low-lying plains, rivers bursting their banks, landslides and mudslides, loss of livestock and destruction of farmland and infrastructure.

The Cabinet also said the resources committed will be applied to humanitarian response, including distribution and supply of medical commodities, food and non-food items, and rehabilitation of infrastructure and resettlement of displaced families. It directed the enhanced deployment of the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) and all public civilian aircraft to transport medical supplies, food, and non-food items for targeted distribution as recommended.

The meeting also directed the scaling up of rapid response to rehabilitate dilapidated road networks and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the affected populations. It also urged all Kenyans to prioritize safety during their travel in this period, as well as at their homes and workplaces.

The humanitarian agencies have said the situation is worsening as the rains continue, with the country's Kenya Meteorological Department predicting continued heavy rainfall until January 2024.

The agencies have also warned that this flooding may also increase the likelihood of cholera outbreaks, mental health issues, loss of livelihoods, post-harvest losses, and food security issues.