“This rain was too much, the worst I have seen in the last 10 seasons,” Mariam Nabura recounts.
“We were caught unawares by the floods in the middle of the night, at times we would receive the warning information but the floods don’t come. But this time round, right after we received an alert about the looming floods, that night the river banks burst and the water flooded our homes,” she adds.
Not only did the devastating floods affect Mariam’s grocery kiosk but her 17 chicken and 5 goats were not spared by the flooding waters. She now has only four 4 goats remaining.
“As we tried to save our children out of the house during the floods, household utensils, chicken and some goats were unfortunately washed away in the floods. The young men helped us to get out of the water then we moved to this (Mororo) camp. Kenya Red Cross gave us tents and we constructed these temporary shelters for our families,” Mariam says.
Statements and feelings like this have now become the hallmark of the aftermath of the deadly floods that left behind a trail of death and destruction. The community living along the Tana River was one of the many that were affected by the floods after the raging waters forced the river to break its banks.
Meet Mariam Nabura Salat, 40-year-old from Mororo community and a mother of six children and grandmother to two. In this part of the country, early marriage is a tradition rather than the norm.
“You know our children get married early, if they are not in school they end up getting married early. But those who are lucky to attend school get married late,” She says.
Mariam says that their prayer has always been to educate all their children but due to none or little income that they have they are unable to take them to school. One of her daughters went to school while she was still married.
“If we can afford it, we would take them all to college level,” she states.Before the floods, Mariam had a grocery kiosk where she was making an average of KES 500 in profit after selling vegetables worth KES 2,000. However, when the above average rainfall came with rage and fury, Mariam’s business was affected.
“We are just waiting for things to get better, for now I am relying on my husband who is a casual laborer to take care of us. Farming is our main source of livelihood but our farms were washed away by the floods such that we now depend on external support”, Mariam explains.
The situation in the camp is dire for most of the families living there. Parents are forced to sleep out in the cold to make space for their young ones to sleep inside the tents. The tents are also not sufficient for the households of about 6 people per family.
As we continue with our conversation around the impact of floods, one of her goats gets into her house and interrupts our meeting; she is worried that it might eat the maize she is preparing to cook for her family in the evening. A risk she is not willing to take considering the floods have negatively affected their food security.
“Kenya Red Cross and the Tana River County government donated to us four Kilograms of beans and 12.5 Kilograms of rice per household which lasted us only eight days. During breakfast, we only take black tea and occasionally we use goat milk to have at least more nutritious tea,” Mariam says.
The ADAPT Consortium moved in to install a water tank, taps, toilets, bathrooms and hand washing facilities for the displaced communities living in the camps.
“The water (as she points to the raised water tank) is safe for drinking and that has helped our community to keep at bay cholera outbreak like it was experienced in some of the camps. The water we were using before was from the river and so we had to boil it before using it. With this clean water in the tank, we are also ensuring basic cleanliness in our households. We are cooking with clean water, cleaning dishes, clothes and showering regularly,” She says.
She further adds that the toilets have helped them restore their dignity. Young men in the camp benefited after ALDEF and Oxfam contracted them to build the toilets where they were paid KES 800 per person and KES 400 for the supporting workers. Before the toilets were put up, people in the camp were relieving themselves in the nearby bushes at night. The nearby bush was a meeting point for both young and old alike.
Bathing was a toll order as they did not have any privacy in the bushes.“It was shameful to use the bush; these toilets and bathrooms have helped us feel like human beings. We have stopped the open defecation which was putting us at risk of contracting diseases,” Mariam laments.
We met Mariam in the camp while taking a leading role in cleaning the toilets and bathrooms. She also volunteered to sensitize the households in the Mororo camp about the importance of maintaining good hygiene to prevent spread of diseases.
“Now we are ready to go back to our farms. Though we do not have the money to rebuild our houses, we will use these tents donated to us by the Kenya Red Cross as we farm and save money from the sale of our harvests to buy materials to construct our houses. This could take one year but we do not have a choice. We will have to work, save and search for alternative livelihoods like causal labor,” She reports.
It is expected that to construct just one house, it will cost them approximately KES 50,000 in labour costs, buying wood and roofing materials.Mariam’s deepest need is to have permanent homes on raised grounds where floods cannot affect them. She says this way, they will not have to rely on aid. She wants to go back to doing business to support her husband in providing for their family.
“I would like to go back to my groceries shop. As a community, we should start taking the warning information given to us seriously to prevent loss of life, property and livelihoods,” she says.
Mariam and her community are now ready to go back to their farms and rebuild their lives, farm and reconstruct their homes.
“With this clean water in the tank, we are also ensuring basic cleanliness in our households. We are cooking with clean water, cleaning dishes, clothes and showering regularly.”