Kisumu County Government has partnered with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to scale up disaster preparedness and awareness in the area.
The partnership which also brings on board World Vision and the Kenya Red Cross targets to create awareness at the same time put in place early warning systems at all disaster prone areas.
Kisumu County Director of Disaster Management Atieno Otieno said focus was on the most prevalent disasters in the area among them floods, fires, communicable diseases and environmental pollution.
“About 60 percent of Kisumu city residents live in slums and informal settlements. The combination of poverty and poor living conditions make them highly susceptible to a range of man-made and natural disasters,” she said.
Atieno said through the programme, focus was on engaging and sensitising young people on risk reduction strategies.
This, she said, entailed involving them in digging and clearing drainage channels to curb flooding while receiving a stipend to retain them and create a sense of ownership and responsibility.
“When you involve people in disaster prevention strategies and make them aware that a blockage can cause floods in their community, they will make an effort to keep it clean and safe,” she said.
UNICEF, she added, has trained county government staff on emergency preparedness and response to disasters before they happen.
“In the past we would wait for disasters to come and people would move to emergency centres in large numbers making it difficult to manage them. Focus has now shifted to prevention,” she said.
The department, she disclosed, has mapped all partners and response teams across the county through Geographic Information System (GIS) for improved communication and coordination in the event of a disaster. In addition, she said, an emergency response centre has been set up at the New Nyanza Regional Headquarters building. Through the centre which is manned by trained staff the department issues 24hr and 72hr updates.
An incident report template, she said, has also been developed and issued to all Deputy County Commissioners (DCC) in the area for proper analysis situations.
Lack of resources, she said, was the biggest challenge adding that the department has outlined various projects in the County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) to be implemented over the next five years.
By Victor Ikobe and Moline Atieno