Downpours leave Garsen in ruins, residents in dire need of help

Residents starve, crops and roads swept away, homes marooned and KCSE exam affected.

In Summary

• Four locations in Garsen ward inaccessible by road for the past month and that has led to a humanitarian crisis.

• The majority of residents have to walk for long distances to buy food and seek services.

Houses submerged in flood water in a section of the road in Buna in Wajir North on Wednesday
FLASH FLOODS: Houses submerged in flood water in a section of the road in Buna in Wajir North on Wednesday

Thousands of Garsen residents have yet to come through the devastating aftermath of downpours and flooding.

They have appealed for help from the county and national governments, local leaders and humanitarian agencies. The floodwaters that raged across the constituency when Tana River burst its banks swept away sections of roads and disrupted transport. Garsen West has been marooned and access to the ward has been a nightmare. 

Some areas have been heavily muddied after floodwaters subsided. There is a major humanitarian crisis. Villagers are in dire need of medicines, food and clean water, but reaching them has been a logistical headache. The situation could get out of hand if no swift action is taken.

More than 5,000 residents in locations such as Chara, Handaraku, Konemasa and parts of Hurara’s Katsangani have been worst hit. Most roads are impassable.

Kipini West MCA Musa Wario said his entire ward is marooned and no single vehicle can access villages. They have a huge shortage of food at Mandingo, Handaraku, Kikomo, Odhole, Mwanja, Chamwanamuma, Shirikisho, Nduru and Lailoni, among others.

“The victims urgently require relief food because there is nothing to sell even in the shops. I urge the government to consider supporting residents who are suffering,” he said.

For children, the situation is unbearable. Their movements have been curtailed and their playgrounds ruined. Only adults can brave the floodwaters and mud.

They cover long distances in search of food and services. Their tribulations are worsened by abject poverty that has, for years, condemned them to a life in hell.

For now, even shoes have become a burden. Residents find it easy walking barefoot. 

Since the heavy rains began, prices of goods have doubled. Traders incur huge transport costs from Malindi or Garsen and can only make profits by increasing charges. Only one tractor is able to drive through the area and most traders cannot afford to hire it to ferry goods. It charges Sh5,000 from Oda. The fare between the two places is Sh400.

Crops have been destroyed and a kilogramme of maize flour now costs Sh100 from Sh60, while the price of sugar has risen from Sh100 a kilogramme to Sh150.

In the midst of the agony, however, bodaboda riders are making a killing. They have doubled fares. Their only undoing is the increased risk of accidents and respiratory ailments. Some of them develop chest pains.

Journalists who visited the area had to leave their cars in the Nursery area. They then travelled to Semikaro in a trailer pulled by the tractor. The journey was hectic. At one point, the press team had to get out of the trailer and wade through the mud after a lorry ferrying food blocked their way. It was stuck in the mud across the road.  

Besides the lorry, a Landcruiser car belonging to security officials was stuck in the mud and had to be pulled by another truck.

Demikaro assistant chief Ala Komora Garise their troubles have been humiliating. The sublocation is home to 600 people. They also rely on the tractor to travel.

And KCSE candidates have not been spared. Garise said they had to relocate an exam centre to Arap Moi School as papers could not be supplied. Pregnant women also have to grapple with the situation. 

“One week ago, there is an expectant woman who came to deliver at the local dispensary but she was referred to another health facility. Due to the bad road, she had to be carried by a bodaboda at night,” he said.

Ramada Mariam Kalkacho, a resident of Semikaro, said the area has been neglected since Independence as if it is not part of Kenya. Pregnant women are carried on stretchers and many of them deliver along the way under difficult circumstances, something that has not been witnessed before, she said.

“Right now students doing KCSE examination have to be carried in a tractor to sit their examination in Ngao, despite the fact that the government allocated funds for roads to be constructed,” she said.

Guyo Hussein, a trader at Mandingo, said the problem has ruined businesses and caused huge losses.

“We urge the county government, through our MCA Musa Wario Shora, to intervene. The road is completely impassable,” he said.

Other residents questioned why the government had abandoned them. They said Sh72 million had been allocated for road upgrade but nothing has been done.

(Edited by F'Orieny)