Raila Odinga Urges National Disaster Declaration for Catastrophic Floods in Kenya

Raila Odinga Urges National Disaster Declaration for Catastrophic Floods in Kenya
May, 4 2024 Environmental News Talia Van Rensburg

Overview of the Crisis

In recent weeks, Kenya has been facing an escalating crisis as relentless heavy rains have led to widespread flooding across the country. Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga has stepped forward, urging the current administration under President William Ruto to declare these devastating floods a national disaster. This plea underscores the severity of the situation, which has impacted over 200,000 people across 31 counties, with the death toll rising to at least 88. The Kenya Red Cross Society, along with other humanitarian agencies, has been at the frontline, addressing the immediate needs of the displaced and affected populations.

The call for declaring a national disaster is not just a formality but a crucial step towards unlocking national and international aid. Such a declaration would facilitate a more coordinated response involving various governmental and non-governmental entities. It enables the mobilization of additional resources, including international aid, and enhances the logistical capacity to reach the most severely affected areas.

The Impact on People and Infrastructure

The intensity of the floods has left a trail of destruction that extends beyond just the loss of lives. Thousands of homes, along with essential infrastructure such as schools and roads, have been submerged or destroyed. In counties such as Tana River, Garissa, Mandera, and Wajir in the northeastern region and Homabay, Migori, and Kisumu in the Nyanza region, communities face monumental losses. Not only have residences been affected but also public facilities which are critical in the day-to-day lives of these communities.

Moreover, the destruction extends to agriculture, a cornerstone of the regional economy, with vast swathes of farmland inundated just before the harvest period. This not only diminishes the food supply but exacerbates the food security situation, threatening to increase the rates of malnutrition and related diseases. The loss of livestock, another vital asset for many households, adds to the dire economic and nutritional predicaments faced by the residents.

Government and Humanitarian Response

In response to the escalating crisis, both the government and humanitarian organizations have initiated relief operations. However, challenges persist with limited resources and the vast geographic spread of the affected areas complicating the response efforts. The logistical difficulties of delivering aid to submerged and cut-off areas add another layer of complexity to the relief operations. Odinga's call for a national disaster declaration aims at alleviating these impediments by enabling a more streamlined and robust response mechanism.

The National Disaster Management Unit (NDMU), which plays a pivotal role in coordinating disaster response across various governmental departments and agencies, has been actively assessing the impact and coordinating relief efforts. The involvement of this unit is crucial in ensuring a systematic approach to disaster management and the effective distribution of aid.

Looking Forward: Needs and Recovery

As the immediate rescue and relief operations continue, there is an urgent need to focus on long-term recovery and reconstruction. The affected communities require extensive support not just in terms of immediate relief but also in rebuilding their lives and livelihoods. Rehabilitation of infrastructure, along with support for rebuilding homes and resuming economic activities, is critical.

Furthermore, there is a pressing need for comprehensive strategies to mitigate future disasters. Given the increasing frequency of extreme weather events linked to climate change, it is imperative to develop resilient infrastructure and community awareness programs that can help reduce the human and economic toll of future calamities.


The devastating floods in Kenya present an urgent challenge needing decisive action. Raila Odinga's plea for a national disaster declaration is a clarion call for a united and reinforced approach to tackle the multifaceted issues arising from this crisis. It is a call to not only address the current needs but to lay down the foundations for a more disaster-resilient future for Kenya.