Some of us grew up in times when children were made of tougher fibres. When the season for the rains came around we rejoiced a little. We enjoyed playing in the rain until we were not only totally soaked, we were also guaranteed of a good spanking from our parents.
Other times we stayed dry and just made miniature boats out of paper and watched them float away in the drainages. Of course the rains also meant getting to work to fetch as much water as possible to reduce on the journeys to the wells for those not blessed with indoor plumbing.
In the recent days, the rains seem to be a phenomenon with new meaning. One night as the rains poured angrily on Kigali I saw tweets of people begging for mercy. They asked the rains not to take more lives given that scores of lives have been lost in mudslides across Rwanda.
The next day I saw a similar prayer from someone in Accra Ghana. Later while watching Al Jazeera I saw footage of how Somalia was dealing with floods because of the rains. All this is nothing compared to Kenya where a private irrigation dam burst and the water killed over 50 people almost instantly in a place called Solai.
The Patel dam in Solai town, Nakuru County burst following weeks of heavy rains. Now that lives have been lost we are being fed on the usual blame games of whether the dam was legally there or being used as per regulations and why any warnings about its state were not heeded. As I wrote this an Mpesa helpline had been set up for people to donate financial help to the survivors as though the taxes paid do not go to the funding of the responsible ministry. It is now a predictable cycle. Blame games on who should have done their job and then an appeal for public donations and then we move on to another disaster.
I think it is time we really got better at handling such situations and at all stages. We are now getting used to images of pricey homes built on reclaimed land being flooded and of structures collapsing after the rains have compromised their strength. The heavy rains are now more of an annual phenomenon that meteorologists always talk about. What we should be asking ourselves is what preparations are taken before these rains cause havoc?
We cannot continue losing precious lives and property each time heavy rains comes around. Remember most of the affected are people who cannot even spell the word insurance. They literally lose everything in such cases situations. Some have been displaced and schools have closed and the threat of communicable diseases lingers every time we get such disasters. It is high time we did better at preparing for and managing these situations.
We have to start this from schools and teach young people about climate change and the devastation that comes where nature goes all out on us. There are more than enough examples to make them understand this since these things happen almost in every corner of the world and some have been recorded on video. Once we have a citizenry that is conscious about nature’s wrath then they can appreciate environmental issues better.
What is more important is those in positions of responsibility should do their job to ensure that lives are not lost aimlessly. Almost every country in the region has a ministry charged with disaster preparedness. The wording says preparedness not reactionary. We should be able to assess areas that likely to be most hit and warn people, move them or be on standby to help soon after. We certainly don’t have much control when nature unleashes its wrath but how respond can go a long away in saving lives.
As if the rains are not bad enough, Ebola is back and close by in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We pray it is contained before it wrecks havoc like it is wont to do. It is not the first time that we having cases of Ebola in the region and DRC in particular. Therefore we can hope that the levels of preparedness when it comes to containing this deadly disease are much better than they ever were in the past. We can no longer claim to be developing when our handling of natural disasters in wanting.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.