Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Kenya's disaster response still too lethargic

An editorial in via the Daily Nation (Kenya): The destruction presently being wreaked by floods in parts of the country send a sobering lesson on the awesome power of nature. It must be particularly traumatic for those in parts of Pokot, Baringo, Turkana, Marakwet districts, and other regions in the North Rift that suffer perennial drought and famine, to be suddenly hit by torrential downpours.

There is very little one can do against the destructive power of the elements. Storms, gale-force winds, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, and other forces unleash havoc when and where they will, and there is little recourse in the way of human intervention.

However, that is not to say intervention measures cannot come in handy to limit the damage and alleviate human suffering. Speedy disaster response can go a long way towards containing the worst effects of the kind of destruction we are presently witnessing.

But all too often, when disasters occur - whether natural as in floods or man-made as in car accidents, collapsing buildings or terrorist attacks - the response is slow, unco-ordinated and ineffective. The Disaster Response and Management Unit at the Office of the President has over the years done very little to justify its existence.

…It has, in fact, been evident over the years that whenever there is a major emergency, State agencies run around in confusion and futile meetings, leaving the job of quick response to humanitarian groups such as the Kenya Red Cross….

Kenya's Tana River in flood, from 1998

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