Devastation and Brutality: The Impact of Floods on Kenya’s Most Vulnerable Citizens

Winnie Makinda weeps as she recounts the tragic death of her son, Ian Otieno, due to a bulldozer in Nairobi on May 8, 2024. The Kenyan government recently ordered the destruction of buildings that are within 30 meters of rivers.

In Nairobi, Kenya, Winnie Makinda, 35, expresses her distress over the government’s handling of floods that devastated her community. Raging floods and mudslides wreaked havoc, claiming hundreds of lives and affecting thousands of people due to heavy rain during Kenya’s rainy season.

Vulnerable communities near rivers, such as the Mathare River in Nairobi, have been hit the hardest. To prevent future tragedies, the government initiated evacuations and the demolition of illegal structures near riverbanks.

Unfortunately, the demolition process has been chaotic and inhumane, resulting in further suffering. Numerous people have lost their lives during these demolitions, including Makinda’s son Ian Otieno, who perished while trying to save belongings inside a church.

Struggling to cope with her situation, Makinda contemplated drastic measures before being calmed by neighbors offering her local moonshine to ease her distress. She barely earns enough washing clothes to feed her eight children, let alone afford medical treatment or funeral expenses.

Displaced individuals like Makinda and Millicent Otondo feel abandoned by the government, which failed to offer adequate notice before demolishing their homes. They have not received promised aid and compensation, deepening their sense of betrayal.

Critics point out that government negligence and corruption have contributed to the current crisis. They argue that officials failed to heed early warnings of floods and allowed construction on risky land near rivers, prioritizing profit over people’s safety.

Despite the devastation caused by floods, the government continues to demolish homes in the name of progress, further alienating vulnerable communities. The lack of affordable housing options exacerbates the situation, leaving many citizens homeless and destitute.

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