Kenya in Crisis: How Flooding is Affecting Our Work

Friday, May 3rd, 2024

Kenya is currently experiencing widespread flooding, impacting 17 counties. We’ve fielded many questions from curious folks wanting to make sure our teams and the communities we serve are doing all right. To shed some light on the current situation of our work in Kenya, we spoke with Executive Directors Jacqueline Shigali and Protus Ekesa from our teams in Western Kenya.

“Though flooding has not been extremely felt in Malava, Lurambi, and Hamisi sub-counties, residents have been advised to watch out for potential flooding, poor visibility, and gusty winds,” said Jacqueline, who works in these counties. “At the moment, our day-to-day activities [are] running smoothly with minimal challenges. The roads are fairly passable, and our project sites are still accessible.”

Protus Ekesa said: “We are not directly affected by the floods in our area of operation, that is Mumias East sub-county. However, we have one spring in Mungakha Community, Nyanje Spring, which was covered at one point due to [the] overflowing River Lusumu. This lasted only for a few hours and then the situation…normalized. Within our area of operation, we haven’t gotten any reported cases of people being affected directly by the ongoing floods.”

Our latest monitoring visit photo of Nyanje Spring in Mungakha Community. As Protus said, the spring is now functional following a brief flood.

“The County Government of Kakamega is currently working on the drainage systems (unblocking) to ensure stormwater is easily directed to the rivers,” Jacqueline added. “To avoid being caught unaware, we have stepped up to sensitize members on how to handle themselves whenever they are caught with [the] challenge of floods. We have cautioned those using motorbikes and vehicles to avoid areas marked as flooding zones, stagnant water, and flooded bridges.”

If our areas were to be affected by the ongoing floods, our teams would carry out extra water quality tests or monitoring visits to ensure the people depending on our water points could still access clean water during the crisis. While these measures may not be needed this time, we will still be keeping an eye on our water points (as always) to monitor for ongoing effects.

“We are not badly off as compared to other Counties in the Northern, Eastern, and Central parts of Kenya,” Jacqueline said. “Our team members have been doing spring project proposals, project repairs, water sampling, resource mobilization for project implementation and monitoring surveys unhindered. 

“However, [the] increased rainfall is likely to have an impact on low-lying water points which could possibly be covered with mud or get destroyed. Surface water runoff is also likely to increase, thereby resulting in contamination of such water points. To help curb the above challenge, we are sensitizing communities on [the] importance of properly done cutoff drainage channels, and enhanced use of chlorine or alternative water treatment methods. We encourage the community members to treat their drinking water using chlorine dispensers at the water points.”

Protus added: “We will consider conducting extra water quality sampling tests on the affected water points during the flooding period just to ensure that the water is safe for consumption. We are not [under] threat as far as our [maintenance parts] inventory is concerned, but we have put measures [so] in case we are affected, it will be well-secured. In a case whereby we learn [a] community has been affected by the floods, it will be communicated to us through community visits, monitoring and evaluation, [and] through phone calls.”

When we shared that many people in the U.S. were concerned about our teams in Western Kenya, their responses were gracious, as always.

“To our partners in the U.S., we really appreciate the thoughts and care you have for us, but we are okay. If not, we will be,” said Jacqueline. “We are dedicated to seeing everyone get access to clean, safe water all year round, and we are well-prepared to handle anything thrown our way. We have a really equipped, strong, united team prepared to handle any challenges that might arise.

“In the case of our work, our team is very resilient, and we shall try to adapt to the weather changes in a way that will not affect the discharge of our responsibilities even as we prepare for 2025,” Jacqueline added. “We get to tackle challenges and find a way to solve [them] and turn [them into] a lesson rather than a stumbling block.”

“We are so grateful for the love, care, and concern,” said Protus. “The concern exhibited by the U.S. team always keeps us encouraged.  We are ensuring that our work is ongoing well since we haven’t experienced flood threats within our work area. We are just taking precautions by ensuring that we do our work [in the] early morning before [the] afternoon, because [the] rains start [in the] afternoon or evening. Our team is very alert and vigilant as far as the floods are concerned. They do not want to take any chances. We are taking all the precautions so as not to be caught unawares by the floods.

“We will always continue updating you on the flood situations in Western Kenya and the country at large.”

As Protus said, The Water Project will continue to give updates on our work in Kenya as the situation unfolds. If you have any concerns or questions about our water projects in the affected areas, please reach out to us and we will be happy to answer them.

Update May 8, 2024:

Since the previous writing, two more of our protected springs have been submerged underwater due to the still-ongoing heavy rains in Kenya. However, we are actively working with these communities to serve their water needs.

A flooded spring in Western Kenya.
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Jamie Heminway

Jamie is a storyteller by nature. In joining the Water Project, she’s finally found a workplace where that pesky bleeding heart of hers can be put to use (and, less importantly, that BA in English Language & Literature from New England College).