13 June 2018

Kenya: Village Devastated By Downpour

On the morning of Sunday, May 20, 2018, some of the residents of Kaseve village in Muvau Sub-location, Makueni County, woke up to find some of their houses extensively damaged, and their pit latrines, filled with water while the weak ones had collapsed following heavy rains. "It had rained for two consecutive days and nights. The ground could not absorb anymore water," says Bernard Nzwii of Muvau sub-location, Makueni County.

"We met in the bush as we answered the call of nature," says Magdalene Nzisa, Mr Nzwii's wife. She says it was both embarrassing and dehumanizing. "It reduces you to the level of an animal, yet, you are spoiling the same grass and bushes that your cows, sheep and goats will feed on," she laments.

The ground pollution, if not acted upon, risks infecting their livestock with bacteria and other disease-causing micro-organisms, says Dr John Muthee, a lecturer in the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Clinical Studies at the University of Nairobi. "Most of the animals have contagious diseases, with larvae under the skin," noted Dr Muthee as he treated livestock in the village during a free four-day community livestock vaccination campaign organised by World Animal Protection (WAP), a global animal rights body.

A quick scan at some of the homesteads in the village shows that nearly 90 per cent of them were left without latrines, and nearly half of them with no kitchens after the rain. Most of the villagers, who use mainly firewood, are now cooking out in the open.

MAKESHIFT PIT LATRINES

The have also dug shallow, makeshift pit latrines as they await for the rainy season to end before they can build others.

Mr Nzwii's kitchen was extensively damaged. One side was completely destroyed, while the remaining bit is supported by tree a tree trunk, although it has a huge crack and is leaning dangerously to one side. It is just a matter of time before it collapses. too visible.

But with no alternative, Nzisa is still using the half-collapsed structure.

Part of the main house, a which served as a bedroom for the couple's teenage sons, collapsed.

"We just heard a loud thud. It was about 2am. Fortunately, the boys were away and our bedroom was spared," Mr Nzisa recalls.

The villagers problems is attributable to the fact that most ot them use bricks and mud to build their houses, and whenit rains, the material absorbs water.

"If it rains for long periods, the structures collapse due to the weight, especially if one had not used sand and cement to bind and strengthen the bricks," says Ms Nzisa. Building stones are hard to find with Makueni County.

LOUD THUD

That Sunday morning, Mr Clement Mutie was woken up at 6 am by a loud thud. His four-room brick and concrete house, which hadreached at the roofing stage, had collapsed.

"I rushed there, only to find the walls still crumbling. I didn't touch the structure. I still haven't touched it. I am still coming up with the next plan after the rainy season," saud Mutie, a boda boda rider at Kaseve market.

At Kaseve shopping centre within the village, the only toilet that survived was a stone one at St Teresa Kaseve Catholic Church. "All the traders and market people shared this toilet with the church," said MsNzisa.

And as the water ran downstream, it swept their crops into the expansive Ndukuma Dam, whose wall on one side gave way that evening, forcing villagers in the low-lying areas to flee their homes and seek shelter in the nearby Burma market for the night.

When they returned home, their some of their livestock was missing. Their farms are now covered with heaps of silt and sand, which have buried their crops.

Most of the villagers rely on their farms and livestock, but having lost many of their animals and crop to the floods, many of them are now uncertain about the future.

Constructed in the 1950's, Ndukuma Dam has been a source of livelihood for the villagers says Dennis Mutunga, our guide and a resident of Kaseve village. "We use the water to make building bricks, to construct houses, for domestic and livestock use, and most importantly, to grow some vegetables in the dry season," he shared. Mutunga, like most of the other young men in the village is a mason and a boda boda rider.

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