Fatuma Juma, 25 years, Bakuyu, Tana River County, Kenya. Photo Credit/Jeremy Mutiso

Fatuma Juma, 25 years, Bakuyu, Tana River County, Kenya

Recovering from floods

Kenya experienced over four times above average rainfall for the long rains season in March-May 2018. 800,000 people were reportedly affected by severe floods countrywide. Over 330,000 were left homeless and almost 200 people lost their lives. The severe floods came right after an extended drought period that left 3.7million Kenyans food insecure.

Tana River County was the worst hit county, with 248,000 people affected and over 150,000 people displaced, nearly 300 cases of cholera outbreak were reported but have since been contained (as of July 2018).

Fatuma Juma, 25 years, a mother of four children, three daughters and one son born and bred in Bakuyu village, Tana River County, Kenya is one such person that has been affected by the severe flooding

Fatuma is engaged in small-scale farming, the main source of livelihood for the people of Bakuyu, a riverine community. She also sells charcoal to supplement her income. Her husband is a matatu (public bus) conductor but his income is not consistent and is meagre, leaving the wife to bear the burden of feeding the family of six.

On a good day, she makes a profit of KES 350 from her charcoal business from a capital of KES 1,500.

“We burn about six sacks of charcoal; each 25 Kilograms at a total cost of KES 1,500, then sell them at KES 350 per bag (total KES 2,100) thus a take home KES 600 in total per cycle of production. This money is not enough to cater for all our needs,” Fatuma states. The women understand the environmental impact of burning charcoal but they however continue doing it because of limited livelihood options.

Fatuma is a member of a women group commonly referred to locally as chama with 12 members. They each contribute KES 50 and share it in a merry-go-round approach on a weekly basis. Currently the group is dormant because of the floods that distabilised their source of livelihoods.

“Once we recover from the effects of the floods, we will resume running our chama which will help us grow our businesses and improve lives,” Fatuma says.

Fatuma’s two roomed family house was not spared during the March 2018 floods in Tana River County. “The roof and half the wall were all washed away together with our household items. I am now living in a tent with my husband and our four children,” She says.

Fatuma Juma outside her two-roomed house that was destroyed by the floods

It was at 11 PM when floods hit the house where Fatuma together with her family were sleeping. The aftermath was distressing with utensils, goats and chicken all washed away.

“My family and I were asleep when suddenly water got into our house. Our household items were also carried away by the water, I still see some of those items in the forest. Three of my goats and 7 chicken died in the floods,” Fatuma remembers.

She says, young men from the community rescued them from the flooding waters and took them to the camp. Here they slept out in the cold for the rest of the night.

  “We did not have anything to cover ourselves,” She says.


Fatuma Juma, her husband and last born daughter outside their makeshift house

Fortunately, on the following day Kenya Red Cross brought them tents to construct temporary shelters which they have made a home for three months now. ADAPT Consortium constructed toilets for the Bakuyu community who were displaced by the floods.

Fatuma says, women were the hardest hit, such that while in the camps they had to wait until under the cover of darkness for them to relieve themselves in the nearby bush. Others took extreme measures by avoiding meals to avoid the need to relieve themselves.

 “These toilets have helped us maintain basic hygiene and prevent diseases because before that we were helping ourselves in the nearby bush which is dehumanizing,” Fatuma adds.

Life at the camp has come with a fair share of challenges Fatuma says.

 “I together with my husband and our youngest daughter were admitted in Mikono hospital for a week. We were diagnosed with Malaria and Typhoid,” Fatuma narrated.

She paid a hospital bill of KES 1,500 but they still owe the hospital KES 3,500 which they are unable to clear for now because her charcoal business is temporarily not operational.

“I did not have any money on me so I negotiated with the doctors to allow us to go home and look for the rest of the money to clear the bill thereafter,” She says.

She continues to say “I feel very bad honestly speaking. We transitioned from extreme drought to devastating floods and now we are nearly going back to drought yet again. I do not have the ability to build my house now. My charcoal business is not reliable. I can go for a fortnight without getting any client. I also have to give the young men money to ‘burn’ charcoal and I do not have that capital.”

She hopes to rebuild her house where they can now live with her family.

“My youngest daughter, (she touches her forehead to feel her temperature) is constantly unwell because of the cold at night,” Fatuma says.

Tana River experiences floods twice a year. It has become part of their everyday reality. To help them cope with the floods, they need a bridge that would allow them to access the town whenever there is flooding.

ALDEF, WASDA and Oxfam, under the ADAPT Consortium, with financial support from Sweden International Development Agency (SIDA) are currently delivering emergency support to communities affected by the floods in Tana North sub-county in Tana River County. 

The consortium is providing clean water in the 9 camps through installation of raised water tanks of 10,000 liters each, tap stands and water tracking. The team also repaired a faulty government water bowser to ease provision of water for the displaced communities.  

Additionally, a total of 67 latrines were constructed as well as 46 bathrooms. The partners also carried out a door to door sensitization program on the importance of maintaining good hygiene practices to prevent the spread of disease, especially after a cholera outbreak in the community. This was followed by installation of 24 handwashing facilities at the latrines in the camps.