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Paradise Lost: Climate Change as a Security Risk Multiplier in Lamu County, Kenya

Lamu County, Kenya, an archipelago renowned for its white sandy beaches and rich cultural heritage, faces a grave threat: climate change. A recent study conducted jointly between the International Center for Humanitarian Affairs, Kenya Red Cross Society, Kenya Forestry Research Institute, County Government of Lamu and the Kenya Red Cross Training Institute explores the escalating dangers that climate change poses to the region’s security. The peaceful facade of Lamu County masks a growing unease as climate hazards intensify, jeopardising resource availability, food security, and even public health.

The study delves into the perceptions of local communities regarding climate hazards, vulnerabilities, and their ingenious adaptation strategies. The findings reveal a disturbing trend: climate change is acting as a threat multiplier, exacerbating existing security risks.

  1. Resource scarcity, a consequence of climate change, is fuelling conflicts.
  2. Food and water insecurity, another climate-induced woe, looms large.
  3. The situation is further compounded by the outbreak of pests and diseases, a consequence of the changing climate.
  4. Rising sea levels add another layer of complexity to the security equation.

Despite this, the unwavering spirit of Lamu County’s residents shines through the adversity. The study highlights the resourceful adaptation strategies they’ve developed to combat these challenges. However, the urgent need for external support is undeniable. The onus falls on both the local and county government and international organisations to bolster these communities’ resilience in the face of a changing climate. Only through collaborative efforts can the security and prosperity of Lamu County be safeguarded.

This research was funded by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) under Climate Research 2023

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The Role of the Government and other Stakeholders in Enhancing Anticipatory Action

The impacts of climate-related disasters have become a global challenge causing significant economic and social consequences. Climate disasters such as floods, droughts, and landslides have become more frequent, cyclic and severe in Kenya, resulting in the loss of lives, destruction of property, and displacement of populations. The cost of responding to disasters and the subsequent recovery efforts has also strained the country’s resources. The effects of climate-related disasters in Kenya have highlighted the urgent need for measures to mitigate and adapt to the changing climate patterns. This policy brief outlines the importance of anticipatory action in disaster risk reduction and response and highlights the government and stakeholders’ role in enhancing anticipatory action. This brief also acknowledges the various legislations developed by the government of Kenya for Disaster Management but also takes note of the existing gaps in the implementation of these legislations. The brief, therefore, proposes measures to enhance anticipatory action, including review, development and implementation of key disaster management legislations, the need for interagency cooperation and collaboration between government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and community groups to implement effective anticipatory action strategies with the importance of public awareness campaigns in promoting community resilience and preparedness, the development of early warning systems, establishing contingency plans, providing financial resources for disaster preparedness, and adopting innovative technologies.  

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Innovative Approaches in Response to Preparedness (IARP) Project

The Innovative approaches to the response preparedness project were realized and incepted in 2018 with funding from Ikea Foundation through the Netherlands Red Cross and British Red Cross. The goal of the project was to help vulnerable communities fight the impact of climate change and be better prepared for disasters. Further, it sought to build the capacity of the Kenya Red Cross-National Partners to provide timely and practical support to the people that were assessed to be the most vulnerable to forecasted extreme disaster events. The five-year project utilized innovative approaches such as Forecast based Financing, data preparedness, and cash and voucher assistance programming to develop flood and drought early warning systems. Other partners who were part of this project included the Red Cross, Red Crescent Climate Centre (Climate Centre), Netherlands Red Cross Data Initiative (510), and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red
Crescent Societies (IFRC).

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From Drought To Deluge

By : Misiani Zachary*, Linet Onyango, Paul Anywayo 

The current heavy rainfall being experienced in Kenya has led to significant damage to properties and loss of lives. The country is still recovering from the effects of the drought, which has had a devastating impact on the livelihoods of millions of people. The Kenya Meteorological Department had earlier predicted that the “Long Rains” season would begin on the weekend of March 11th, 2023, with light to moderate rainfall in some areas. However, the rainfall intensified and spread to various regions of the country from March 13th, 2023, causing significant destruction. The “Long Rains” season is a crucial period for Kenya’s agricultural sector, particularly in the Western, Rift Valley, and Central regions, as it provides the much-needed moisture for planting and growing crops. However, the current heavy rainfall has led to flash floods, landslides, and other related disasters, which had disrupted transportation networks, and displaced communities. (REF. No: KMD/FCST/4-2023/SR/01)

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Cash Transfers in the Humanitarian Systems

Article written by: Brian Ikala

Humanitarianism originates from noble efforts to “alleviate the suffering of distant strangers, save lives and enable those suffering to maintain their human dignity during or after a natural disaster or man-made crisis”. The principles of independence, impartiality, and neutrality pioneered by the International Committee of the Red Cross are still being alluded to by International Organizations and NGOs in justifying short-term material distribution to meet basic needs
and actions requiring legal and physical protection. Humanitarian assistance has become unique from a national social protection policy and development assistance programs initiated by States and International Organizations after 1945.

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Use of Geo-Information Tools to Investigate Flood Risk

Five years after the adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 2030, the concept of building resilience amongst communities to flooding is still a major concern in developing countries. This is evident from the ever-increasing flood events across Kenya and the inability of communities affected by floods to act appropriately prior to a flood event. Kwale County, in Kenya, the example of this study typifies this situation. Kenya Red Cross Society implemented a project whose goal was to strengthen institutional and community capacity in anticipatory flood risk management. The project employed the early warning services (EWS) model in understanding knowledge of flood risks. To investigate flood risk in Kwale County, openly available geo-information tools were used in the systematic collection of information to understand areas exposed to floods, the communities affected and the impacts they experience. These tools include; the Height Above Nearest Drainage (HAND) that identified flood-prone areas and dwellings at risk of flooding from satellite imagery analysis.

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Use Of Data In Anticipatory Risk Management

As disaster occurrence continue to rise particularly in developing countries, cases of humanitarian crises have been growing. Thus, there is interest in paradigm shift to proactive response in anticipation of the disasters to save lives, livelihoods and save humanitarian actors from the enormous cost that they would otherwise incur in event of crises. This paper highlights the practical experience of developing an anticipatory action system that strengthened proactive response to disaster in Kenya, a country in which disaster occurrence has become a norm. It demonstrates practical challenges in pioneering this kind of a system that demands quality and appropriate data and expertise, while there is no central archive for all relevant data, gaps in coverage of early warning systems and limited capacity to access, interpret and use climate information for decision-making among risk management institutions. So far two anticipatory systems have been developed based on a data driven approach to predict and create anticipation of potential ravaging impacts of climate-related disasters; drought and floods. The systems are already attracting automatic funding allocation from donors to support vulnerable persons in the risky areas to take anticipatory actions to reduce risks and/or impacts of droughts and floods.

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Understanding the status and need for aniticipatory early action

The Tana River and Athi River basins are the first and second largest basins in Kenya respectively. The two basins are known to experience flooding during the long (March- April-May) and short (October-November- December) rains and this causes great impact on vulnerable communities living in Garissa, Tana River and Kilifi counties. Some of the impact of the flooding includes; displacement, death, destruction of property, disruption of access to essential health care and
related services, irrigation systems and farm equipment, road infrastructure, livelihoods and key installations such as water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. As if that is not enough, these impacts take back the development gains made.

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Community Flood Risk Mapping

The African continent has a very diverse climatic profile ranging from equatorial to desert with variable levels of rainfall and water flow. In the last 50 years, this variability has been increasingly exacerbated by effects of climate change. Indeed, flood-related impacts and associated economic losses have been on the rise in Africa2, and with the earth continuing to warm, these losses are likely to rise without effective and context-specific mitigation measures being put in place.

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Case Study – Use of earth observation products to enhance humanitarian disaster response West Pokot

Kenya is mostly affected by mudslides and floods during two rainfall seasons, namely March-April-May (MAM) and October-November-December (OND). These landslides, floods and mudslides more often than not lead to loss of human lives, destruction of houses, displacement of people, livestock deaths, and loss of livelihoods among other impacts. This paper highlights the use of earth observation satellite imageries from the Airbus Foundation for post-disaster impact assessment during the 2019 OND rainfall season to support an effective response. On the 23rd of November 2019 during the OND rainfall season, mudslides and floods occurred in West Pokot, disrupting road accessibility, loss of human lives, loss of livelihoods, house destruction, and displacement of people.