At Least Six Died in Kakuma Floods
The heavy downpour in the months of April – May resulted in at least six people dying and two reported missing
On the 3rd May this year, Ali Yusuf Abdi died in Kawalasse river which is only 1km from Lodwar Town in Turkana. Ali, who was a businessman, attempted to cross the highly flowing river together with two other people when he was unfortunately drowned.
In the two months preceding at least three other male refugees drowned on different occasions when they attempted to cross over the Nabek seasonal river that separates Kakuma 1 and 2. They originated from: Somalia, Burundi and Congo.
On the evening of 28th March, Abdullakir Ahmed, a native of Darfur, died in the same river while crossing it from Kakuma 2 heading to Kakuma 1 (Hong-Kong) area of the camp. Abdullakir was aged 26 and had been living in Kakuma 1 zone 3 block 9 section of the camp.
On the 7th May heavy rain caused huge flooding while in the afternoon of the following day, the body of a man in already bad condition was found in the bed of the river Tarach where the waters had gone down. It was first found by some local Turkana shepherds crossing the river towards the refugee camp markets, who notified members of refugee community. The photo was taken on the same day, at 4:18pm by a Kanere reporter while on assignment. Later, the local guards were able to inform the police, who took the body to the refugee hospital. It could not be positively identified but was said to be a member of the host community.
The Kakuma environs had been experiencing high temperatures and low dust storms in the first quarter of the year. However, towards mid April-May weather conditions changed to days of rain. According some camp residents interviewed by Kanere, they explained that it rained too heavily in early May, more than had been experienced in previous years. “I felt the rain was too strong with flooding, since the time I started living in Kakuma, it never rained like that day,” said an eye witness who saw the corpse lying swollen in the river at zone 6 section of Kakuma 1.
Another person reported missing on the afternoon of the rainy day was a Somali refugee later identified as Mohamud Abdikarim residing in Kakuma 1. Sadly his body was never found.
The environmental topography in Kakuma is a new experience for the camp residents. All three major sections of Kakuma are divided by seasonal flowing rivers. On some occasions these rivers get flooded without any signs of rain or clouds, due to the camp’s poor siting within the rift valley floor. In many seasons rain in the Ugandan hills has caused floods in Kakuma refugee camp due to its nearness to the border.
According to a Somali community leader, rivers in Somalia are all flowing slowly with little pressure and there are no fast flowing rivers, as opposed to the situation in Kakuma. “These seasonal rivers are too dangerous, one can hear when it roars like a lion from a distance,” said a leader in an interview with Kanere.
The camp environment has negative impacts and for such reasons people normally come to the huge river banks for pleasure. Somali residents being used to rivers in their country routinely come out to rivers in Kakuma, being unaware of the dangers surrounding heavy rain and flooded rivers in Turkana, hence becoming victims of river tragedy. “From what I witnessed, I have learnt that more than seven refugees have so far died in floods in Kakuma,” the leader concluded.
KANERE informs the refugee communities once again of the dangers surrounding flooding rivers. It would help if humanitarian NGOs can focus on creating awareness of safety measures during frequent flooding in Kakuma that continues to claim innocent lives.