SHIOSO: Mitigating against El Niño – Call to personal responsibility

This is one of those unanticipated contingency moments

In Summary
  • If lessons learned from the past are anything to go by, and any indicator of what to expect, then this is not a good time for all to sit pretty.
  • Without a doubt, normal living shall be disrupted
Former Police Spokesperson Bruno Shioso now director general of the Kenya Coast Guard Service.
Former Police Spokesperson Bruno Shioso now director general of the Kenya Coast Guard Service.

With the recent warning by Kenya’s Met department of an impending global El Niño to hit Kenya in the coming months, we as the Kenya Coast Guard Service have raised our antennae, knowing too well that our job is well cut out for us in the near future.

This is one of those unanticipated contingency moments which throw all prior calculated plans off the rails, leading to scampering in a bid to mitigate the effects of such distressful phenomena.

If lessons learned from the past are anything to go by, and any indicator of what to expect, then this is not a good time for all to sit pretty.

Without a doubt, normal living shall be disrupted, with local economies thrown in a tailspin, children unable to continue with normal schooling and daily work greatly impacted, etc.

Those sick in far-flung villages are cut off from access to medical attention, and worse, being that moment of the school examination circle, the national examination is expected to be thrown in disarray.

Even some of those in highland areas thought to be off-limits are not fully insured if they happen to habituate areas prone to mudslides.

And to the communities living along the lower Tana River and those within the shores of Lake Baringo, flooding entails cohabitation with one of the most dangerous reptiles, the crocodile, which is washed ashore right into villages!

This might sound scary, but is what Murphy’s Law in the famous maxim alluded to as: “Anything that can go wrong, shall go wrong!”

Meaning, no planning is perfect and foolproof. Satan happens, and at an unexpected, or worse time.

El Niño is that time of “furies”; when nature runs amok and unleashes above-normal weather conditions in some parts of the world. And it comes with a high price tag for humanity. Kenya is not an exception either, since she sits in this unfortunate corridor of destruction.

Agencies are therefore scrambling and grappling with a response mechanism.

We as KCGS are part of this concerted, multi-sectoral multi-agency solution-making.

We are fully engaged in the whole of government effort to alleviate the suffering of the citizens. We are poring over contingency plans, and sharing information with full knowledge of what El Niño and attended flooding means and does not just to the country through general disruption of the way of life, but specifically, to those most at-risk and vulnerable communities living along the coastline, riverine communities, including those in marshland/water logged areas within estuaries.

These are the hotspots in dire need of mitigation measures. An image of the desolate lady in Budalangi earlier captured on national TV during a past El Niño visitation, crying desperately, “Serikali, nisaidie” readily comes to mind. We wouldn’t wish for such or similar cries.

Therefore, as the government continues to firm up its plans on appropriate interventions aimed to alleviate suffering and ensure normal livelihood goes on with the least interruption, the public also has a responsibility towards their safety and well-being.

The most vulnerable at-risk communities are thus encouraged to move to higher grounds, including with their animals and other properties.

This period is also that moment when the test of true community oneness comes to life: everyone being each other's keeper! Let each of us look out for the other, mutually covering our backs, and share the little provisions that one may have.

Collaborating and coordinating with local leaders, especially national government officials and similar local security agencies like the police, Coast Guard, navy, Red Cross etc., is not an exception but extremely helpful.

The fisherfolk communities reliant on the maritime economy are equally hard-hit during these trying moments.

With unpredictable, dangerous tides, being at sea to fend for families is as dangerous as it can get. Many are washed away, with drowning incidents being at their peak. And worse, no fish is netted either!

We, as a Service therefore continue working with these communities, exhorting them on their safety requirements.

Working with the fisheries service, we’re sensitizing beach management units (BMUs) on their basic safety expectations, including adhering to weather alerts that we routinely share with them.

Through an innovative safety at-sea app, a proactive tool designed with the support of the EU Go-Blue programme aptly named “Usalama Baharini App”, the fisherfolk plying their trade within the coastal waters are and continue to be equipped with mobile phone technology with the capability of reporting to a central multiagency maritime joint operation centre based in Mombasa on incidents at sea requiring timely law enforcement safety response.

With support from the USA INL programme, we have scheduled an aerial reconnaissance of at-risk and vulnerable areas to design fitting countermeasures.

These are just but a few of the other ongoing safety solutions offered by KCGS in collaboration with other agencies and partners.

Otherwise, there might not be any magic wand out there, as an absolute mitigation, especially when the gods go crazy, and in the face of limited resources.

But doing the little things that personal responsibility demands of all of us towards our own and collective safety needs might be all that which matters. And that is what might just save a life.

Bruno Shioso is the Kenya Coast Guard Service director general

WATCH: The latest videos from the Star