The news about the effects of prolonged rainfall is cyclical in Kenya and every year, there is a now-familiar cry from the distraught residents of the areas prone to flooding.
The Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) is always at the heart of disaster responses in the country and one of the biggest challenges they have faced over the years has been how to warn residents of areas normally affected by extreme weather.
All they usually need to be told is that it is time to prepare to move to safer areas.
Working with Safaricom, KRCS developed a tool to send out early warning text messages to people living in flood prone counties, asking them to take precaution.
The SMS platform known as M-Salama, was unveiled in 2018.
“In the 2020 flooding season we reached 11 million Kenyans with the bulk SMSs,” said Dr. Asha Mohammed, Kenya Red Cross Secretary General.
By end of June 43 out of Kenya’s 47 counties had reported floods, with the most displacement happening in the West Kenya, Coastal, North Eastern and North Rift regions, says KRCS.
The floods left at least 94 dead, with another 82 missing and more than 250,000 people affected. But the damage of the raging floods is not just physical, but also has psychological impact on the affected families.
In additional to material support, KCRS also offers psychosocial support to everyone who needs it during disasters as part of victim support. They normally extend this service in person or through tele-counseling toll free on the line 1199.
The Safaricom Foundation has supported KRCS to the tune of KSh25 million for the purchase of basic household essentials and food items to support flood victims in at least eight of the worst-hit counties across the country. “The support from Safaricom Foundation will ensure that basic health and domestic needs are taken care of, creating continuity of livelihoods in Homa Bay, Kisumu, Siaya and Busia,” she added.
Safaricom Foundation chairman Joe Ogutu said the disasters were particularly worse this time because of the pressure brought on by the pandemic.
“We are faced with a new crisis that has left thousands of people displaced and at risk of contracting not only the Coronavirus but also malaria, pneumonia and other water borne diseases. That is why we partnered with Kenya Red Cross, just as we have done in the past during times of natural disasters, to support them in their endeavors to save those affected by floods,” said Ogutu.