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Bishop of Bondo, western Kenya: Lack of care for creation led to flooding

03 May 2024


A family use a canoe after fleeing floodwaters in their village, Ombaka, near Kisumu, Kenya, in the middle of last month

A family use a canoe after fleeing floodwaters in their village, Ombaka, near Kisumu, Kenya, in the middle of last month

A BISHOP in Kenya has blamed the torrential floods that have killed hundreds in East Africa on a lack of care for creation.

The Assistant Bishop of Bondo, western Kenya, Dr Emily Awino Onyango, said: “We have not cared for creation, and these are the effects. One of the biggest problems . . . is cutting down trees and the people settling on the banks of lakes and rivers. We all know that should not be allowed. As Christians, I think we need to come back urgently to the care of the creation.”

Kenya has been particularly badly affected, but torrential rain has also killed many and left thousands homeless in Tanzania and Burundi.

In central Kenya, many are still missing after flash flooding and mudslides last week swept people away as they slept in their homes. Survivors described an onslaught of water washing away houses and cars. Farmland has been submerged and livestock drowned. The President, William Ruto, has ordered the evacuation of areas at risk of further flooding, as the rain continues.

The rainy season has been much heavier than normal in the region, and comes in the wake of a prolonged drought described as the most severe in four decades.

The poorest were most affected, Dr Onyango said: residents of shanty towns saw homes and family swept away. “The people who do not have anything are most affected. Even if you give them food and blankets, that cannot replace homes.”

She called on the government to do more to prevent people settling in flood plains.

In Nairobi, the home of Tearfund’s operations lead for Southern and East Africa, Elizabeth Myendo, has been flooded. “Apart from feeling the fear of drowning in my own home, I am better off than most people,” she said. “The water flooded my house for two days, but at least we’ve now managed to drill a pathway for the water so that it goes outside now.

“People who were already living in much more difficult conditions are really badly affected, and many have lost everything. My church community is gathering resources to support those who were living in informal settlements, providing clothes, blankets, and the everyday basics.

“These floods follow ten years of drought; so the ground was hard, making heavy rain more dangerous. Even for an El Niño year, the rainfall has been triple what you would have anticipated. The flooding is much much worse than we’ve experienced before. It’s shocking how widespread across the country they are, affecting both urban and rural communities. We are really feeling the impact of climate change, and our work equipping the Church to be ready to respond in these times of crisis feels more necessary than ever.”

Religious leaders in Kenya issued a statement mourning the devastation caused by flooding, saying that places of worship were open for sanctuary, and worshippers were being mobilised to support those affected. The lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Kenyans has been affected, the statement said.

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