From neck-deep in floods to sleeping on debris in slums

Survivors in Kibra and Mathare recount losing relatives, homes and businesses

In Summary

• Floods took a heavy toll on Kenyans in informal settlements, as some sources attest

• They now scramble for relief food from NGOs as Sh10k government pledged eludes

A collage of Ann Kyatha and Evans Ochieng from Kibra and Snyder Khetete from Mathare
A collage of Ann Kyatha and Evans Ochieng from Kibra and Snyder Khetete from Mathare

Kibra, which was once vibrant and booming with business, has now been reduced to a quiet and dull place, with faces full of concern and uncertainty about what the future holds.

Had you passed Kibera two months ago, you would have found people going about their businesses and children going to school like any other normal day.

However, in the past month, Kibera has been hell on earth for the residents living in the riparian lands.

The weight of their sadness is almost tangible as they try to pick up pieces of their shattered lives, serving as a reminder of a powerful force of nature that has left an unbearable trail of destruction.

As I head to the Kibera slums, I’m met with faces filled with grief and disbelief as residents try to come to terms with the fact that their homes and livelihoods have been washed by the heavy floods the country witnessed in the past two months.

Mothers struggle to comprehend the cruel reality of being homeless and without any belongings to cater for their needs. They are only left with one option: to hide their emotions and to be strong for their families.

Children accompanied by their parents scramble to get relief food offered by organisations to push them for another day.

One by one, men, women and children trickle to a camp set up by Christian Best Camps of Kenya to get support to feed their families.

Ann Kyatha speaks in Kibra when she went to collect relief food
Ann Kyatha speaks in Kibra when she went to collect relief food


Ann Kyatha recalls the dreadful night the raging floods unleashed fury on their community in Kibera.

Kyatha, a mother of one and a businesswoman, saved her only child at 2am in the night as the floods wreaked havoc.

The few days before the heavy rain was bearable to some extent, but on that one night, it became worse.

“It was not so much at first but it rained heavily. When I woke up that night at 2am, water was everywhere,” Kyatha said.

She was devastated because everything was carried away. The water was too much. She raised the alarm as everyone around her was asleep at that time.

“The water reached up to my neck. Everyone was screaming and trying to rescue their children," she said.

"We tried to go outside but it was also too much, with very strong pressure. I placed my only child on my head and tried to move out of the house."

Kyatha led her neighbours in getting out of their houses. At some point, her child was crying so loudly and to calm him down, she was forced to pinch him not out of anger but to comfort and make him stop crying.

“But above all, I was able to save my child, I’m glad,” she said.

Since the floods washed away her belongings and house, she has not been able to find a place to live.

She and her community are also struggling for food and medication for their children.

“All of us are helpless and we have been sleeping on the iron sheets where the houses were destroyed by floods here in Kibera,” she said.

“We couldn’t help ourselves. Generous people are the ones coming to help us with food.”  

Many children became sick from the cold condition they were exposed to, but they could not be helped since the doctors were on strike.

“Since our houses were washed away, we have never showered or changed clothes,” she said.

“We use the wet ones we saved from the houses; we spread and sleep on them. The condition is harsh because most of us will get heart diseases from exposure to the cold all this time.”

Kyatha said she has not received any help from the government after being promised Sh10,000 to help those displaced to find a house.

“Since the government announced that we shall be given some money to rent houses elsewhere, we have never seen help,” she said.

“But we are hopeful they will act soon to help us from this suffering.”

Maureen Mbati speaks in Kibra
Maureen Mbati speaks in Kibra


Maureen Mbati, a resident and a businesswoman in Kibra, was also displaced by floods.

The detergent soap seller is counting losses from the floods.

“Everything was carried by water. Books, uniforms, shoes and clothes. Everything was destroyed in the floods. However, all of my children are safe,” she said.

After the floods, Mbati and her four children were moved to a safe house along with her neighbours.

Unfortunately, due to the congestion from people and belongings in the room, one of her children got burnt in the leg with hot tea.

She said the government and the Red Cross have been trying to help but due to many people struggling for the relief food, she has not been able to secure some for her family.

“I would like to move from here. If somebody pays my rent somewhere else, it will be of great help,” she said.

Evans Ochieng speaks in Kibra
Evans Ochieng speaks in Kibra

Evans Ochieng, who lives in Kibera, is happy to have escaped death by a whisker after he lost all his belongings to the floods.

“I remember it like it was yesterday. On Friday, the floods were too much and it carried everything. Now we are just surviving with the food we are given by the organisations,” he said.

Ochieng, a businessman, lost printers and computers he was using to operate his business.

He said it will be hard for him to bounce back and revive his business.

Ochieng pleaded for help for school fees, uniform and books for his only child, who is set to report to school this week.

Despite the challenges he is facing after being displaced, Ochieng is hopeful that he will get help to get back on his feet and provide for his family.

Christian Best Camps of Kenya has come out to provide immediate intervention for those affected by floods in Kibera.

Founder and director Erick Simba said since the floods wreaked havoc, the organisation has helped more than 500 victims with food and clothing.

Apart from the immediate intervention, they have also offerred counselling to the victims who lost their loved ones.

“We were part of the team that pulled out a woman who had drowned just outside our centre,” he said.

“We have also helped in burial preparations for three families so far.”

Christian Best Camps of Kenya founder Erick Simba
Christian Best Camps of Kenya founder Erick Simba


In Mathare, the community has likewise been left in shambles.

As we walked through the slums on a Saturday, we could see young men pulling handcarts with belongings, moving from one place to another, probably trying to find a better place to settle.

The once-busy corners of the slums have now been filled with debris and vibrant homes reduced to rubble.

I'm met by a group of residents of all ages, trying to make their way in a shelter camp.

The camp was set up by women's wellness group Pussy Power in collaboration with rights group Defenders Coalition to distribute food to the affected.

Sadness and frustration are all you can gather from Ruth Akinyi, 16, who witnessed all her cherished possessions being swept away by the floods.

Her voice trembled with emotions as she recounted the last-minute efforts to try and save her life and those of her family members.

After the devastating floods swept away their house, she had lost not only her home but also her sick mother, who was seeking shelter at her sister’s place in Mathare.

Akinyi has now been forced to grow up far too soon to take care of her young brother.

It adds on to her responsiblities after she was forced to drop out of school when she was 14 years old to help her family.

Akinyi has not received any help but remains hopeful that her details will be recorded to benefit from the government’s stipend for flood victims.

She is currently being hosted by a friend and receives food and clothes from Pussy Power.

Snyder Khetete speaks in Mathare
Snyder Khetete speaks in Mathare

Snyder Khetete is also coming to terms with the havoc of the floods.

With a heavy heart, Snyder, 23, explains how she had built her life in the slums of Mathare with her family and friends beside her, only for it to be washed away in a matter of hours.

She was asleep only to be woken up by the noise around, with people struggling to save themselves.

“It was around 1am when I was startled. I found water had reached the level of my bed and it was coming with so much pressure,” she said.

“I could not stay behind to save my belongings, so I decided to go to the first floor, thinking that the water would not reach that level.

“The water then became too much and there were many people in the room. We were forced to climb to the rooftop to save ourselves.”

Snyder said her brother decided to retreat to their rural home to seek shelter as she struggles to put her life back together.

“I sell sausages and eggs, all my stock in the house was swept by floods. The only thing I have remained with me is the trolley, which was in another place,” she said.

Despite the devastation, her voice was resilient as she vowed to rebuild and start anew once help comes her way.

As of May 14, the total number of fatalities as a result of floods was 289, according to Interior CS Kithure Kindiki.

At least 75 Kenyans are still missing, while another 188 have sustained injuries.

A total of 57,120 households have been displaced and this has directly affected about 285,600 people.

The government has set up at least 187 camps across 25 counties.

President William Ruto said the government will give Sh10,000 to each household affected by floods to secure alternative accommodation. 

A view of Kibra after floods swept away houses
A view of Kibra after floods swept away houses
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