Dis­as­ter mit­i­ga­tion is not ex­clu­sive to the gov­ern­ment.

The East African - - BUSINESS - ROSE NGUGI

Kenya, like many coun­tries in sub-sa­ha­ran Africa has ex­pe­ri­enced se­vere drought and flood episodes over the past two decades. More re­cently, the coun­try has been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing se­vere floods that have dis­placed peo­ple and de­stroyed in­fras­truc­ture and prop­erty.

Such nat­u­ral dis­as­ters set in mo­tion a com­plex chain of events that dis­rupt liveli­hoods, the lo­cal econ­omy and in se­vere cases, the na­tional econ­omy. Floods cause wide­spread de­struc­tion, re­sult­ing in the loss of both an­i­mal and hu­man life. They cause dam­age to prop­erty and crit­i­cal pub­lic in­fras­truc­ture such as roads, bridges, schools, health, elec­tric­ity and wa­ter sup­ply, re­sult­ing in bil­lions of shillings in eco­nomic losses. Droughts are also harm­ful for agri­cul­ture, es­pe­cially in rain-fed agri­cul­tural sys­tems, and may create prob­lems in wa­ter sup­ply.

Costs and losses that stem from emer­gen­cies re­lated to droughts and floods are two sep­a­rate en­ti­ties. Losses oc­cur pre­dom­i­nantly through de­struc­tion of an econ­omy’s wealth — the phys­i­cal as­sets that help gen­er­ate in­come. Costs arise due to re­con­struc­tion to re­place, re­pair or re­in­force the as­sets de­stroyed by floods.

The 1999-2001 drought for ex­am­ple, was es­ti­mated to have af­fected 4.4 mil­lion peo­ple, killed nearly 60-70 per cent of live­stock in the arid and semi­arid ar­eas and caused crop fail­ure in most parts of the Rift Val­ley, Coast, East­ern and Cen­tral re­gions of the coun­try. Sim­i­larly, the 2011 drought led to se­vere food short­ages, that af­fected about 3.75 mil­lion Kenyans and had a com­bined eco­nomic im­pact equiv­a­lent to be­tween 0.7-1.0 per cent of GDP. The re­cent droughts and floods be­tween Novem­ber 2016-April 2018 are es­ti­mated to have af­fected 3.4 mil­lion peo­ple.

Im­pact on gen­der and chil­dren

Dif­fer­ent seg­ments of the pop­u­la­tion are af­fected dif­fer­ently by nat­u­ral dis­as­ters largely due to asym­met­ri­cal power re­la­tions based on their gen­der. Women have an un­equal so­cial, po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic sta­tus in the society, mak­ing them most vul­ner­a­ble to nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. Women and girls are par­tic­u­larly more likely to suf­fer higher rates of mor­tal­ity, mor­bid­ity and eco­nomic dam­age.

Women also face in­sur­mount­able bar­ri­ers in restor­ing their liveli­hoods af­ter drought and flood emer­gen­cies. Given their role in society of en­sur­ing the fam­ily gets food, wa­ter and other sup­plies, and the fact that they are en­gaged in low-wage activities, it fur­ther dis­ad­van­tages them when cop­ing with the im­pacts of drought and floods.

Nat­u­ral dis­as­ters also tend to hit the poor­est and the most marginalised de­mo­graph­ics. While ev­ery­one liv­ing in dis­as­ter-prone ar­eas is vul­ner­a­ble to the im­pacts of droughts and floods, the poor, chil­dren, the el­derly and per­sons liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties are more vul­ner­a­ble and face a higher risk of death.

In­sti­tu­tional and le­gal frame­work

It is the role of the in­sti­tu­tional and le­gal frame­work to plan, im­ple­ment and mon­i­tor the pro­cesses of dis­as­ter risk man­age­ment aris­ing from cli­mate haz­ards.

The frame­work en­sures co­or­di­na­tion among all stake­hold­ers and in­te­grates dis­as­ter risk man­age­ment ef­forts into the de­vel­op­ment of poli­cies and pro­grammes that re­duce the peo­ple’s level of vul­ner­a­bil­ity.

Kenya has put in place leg­is­la­tion and rel­e­vant in­sti­tu­tions to deal with dis­as­ters and emer­gen­cies, in­clud­ing the Na­tional Drought Man­age­ment Author­ity and the Na­tional Dis­as­ter Op­er­a­tions Cen­tre. The crit­i­cal thing is to en­sure the in­sti­tu­tional ar­range­ments and na­tional poli­cies for flood and drought emer­gency man­age­ment are ef­fec­tive in man­ag­ing dis­as­ter risks, in­clud­ing the pre­pared­ness by var­i­ous agen­cies and at dif­fer­ent lev­els of gov­ern­ment; na­tional and county.

Role of gov­ern­ment and other ac­tors

The man­age­ment of emer­gen­cies aris­ing from droughts and floods can char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally be or­gan­ised into five stages: Pre­ven­tion; pro­tec­tion; pre­pared­ness; re­sponse and re­cov­ery. The re­sponse to these emer­gen­cies will typ­i­cally re­quire ef­fec­tive co­or­di­na­tion among sev­eral in­sti­tu­tional and non-in­sti­tu­tional ac­tors.

While the state has the over­all re­spon­si­bil­ity of re­duc­ing dis­as­ter risk, man­ag­ing risks is a shared re­spon­si­bil­ity be­tween gov­ern­ment and rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers. Non­state ac­tors play a key role as en­ablers in pro­vid­ing sup­port to states, in ac­cor­dance with na­tional poli­cies, laws and reg­u­la­tions, in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the risk re­duc­tion frame­work at lo­cal, na­tional and re­gional lev­els. Their com­mit­ment, good­will, knowl­edge, ex­pe­ri­ence and re­sources con­tri­bu­tion is re­quired in dis­as­ter man­age­ment.

Cop­ing mech­a­nisms

Apart from mit­i­ga­tion and trans­fer strate­gies that are un­der­taken be­fore the on­set of drought or floods, cop­ing with risks en­tails those activities un­der­taken by house­holds there­after. Cop­ing en­ables fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties to deal with the ad­verse ef­fects of drought/floods.

The cop­ing strate­gies could be eco­nomic, so­cial, cul­tural or tech­no­log­i­cal in na­ture. House­holds threat­ened by drought and famine de­ploy a va­ri­ety of cop­ing strate­gies pro­gres­sively as the cri­sis wors­ens. These dif­fer de­pend­ing on the re­gion and lo­cal cir­cum­stances. Bal­anc­ing the tra­di­tional and mod­ern mech­a­nisms re­quires en­hanced pub­lic aware­ness.

The re­sponse to emer­gen­cies re­quires ef­fec­tive co­or­di­na­tion among sev­eral in­sti­tu­tional and non­in­sti­tu­tional ac­tors.”

Adap­ta­tion, mit­i­ga­tion strate­gies

Im­prov­ing com­mu­nity re­silience to floods and droughts re­quires proac­tive adap­ta­tion and mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures. Many com­mu­ni­ties are dy­namic and re­spond to changes in en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors. Re­silient com­mu­ni­ties can with­stand haz­ards and con­tinue to op­er­ate un­der stress, adapt, and re­cover af­ter a cri­sis while oth­ers may not.

Build­ing and main­tain­ing dis­as­ter re­silience de­pends on adap­ta­tion strate­gies the com­mu­nity in­te­grates in their mit­i­ga­tion plans. Pre­pared­ness is key in im­prov­ing com­mu­nity re­silience to nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.

Kenya is a sig­na­tory to the Sendai Frame­work for Dis­as­ter Risk Re­duc­tion, which com­mits na­tions to ad­dress dis­as­ter risk re­duc­tion by build­ing re­silience to dis­as­ters within the con­text of sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment and poverty erad­i­ca­tion. The oc­cur­rence of droughts and floods in Kenya has of­ten re­sulted in emer­gency sit­u­a­tions. This ne­ces­si­tates a na­tional dis­cus­sion/ de­bate with all stake­hold­ers on how to end emer­gen­cies re­lated to droughts and floods.

Dr Rose Ngugi is the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Kenya In­sti­tute for Pub­lic Pol­icy Re­search and Anal­y­sis

Pic­ture: File

Em­ploy­ees of the Nakuru county gov­ern­ment in Kenya’s Rift Val­ley un­block a drainage sys­tem on the Nakuru - Nairobi high­way on May 27, fol­low­ing floods. Re­cent floods in the coun­try have dis­placed peo­ple and de­stroyed in­fras­truc­ture.

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