By Lijodi Linneah
The Mukuru Disaster Management Forum is supposed to help people in the informal settlement of Mukuru to discuss and come up with their own tailored solutions to the urban disasters they might be facing. This project is funded by the United Kingdom and is being implemented by Muungano wa Wanavijiji in the entire Mukuru settlements, which are five in total. The randomly picked participant from every village then discusses the problems they have in common and how they can reduce its occurrence.
The most common disaster amongst the 5 villages tends to be fires, which happen every week in the settlement and whose impact is loss of property and sometimes death. Most times, the fires are contained by the residents of these areas, who have improvised ways to put out the fire and stop further spread which has a high probability due to the density of the houses in these areas.
Once a fire has occurred there is always screams and noises to alert the people around that there is a fire, this sends most residents in rescue mode to try and help put it out as the available fire engines around this settlement cannot pass due to its impassable and very thin roads. Most houses have encroached road reserves, making accessibility very hard. Another way that has really helped the residents in dealing with the frequent fires is deconstruction of the next households so that it creates a barrier hence curbing the spread of the fire. Community response and the good coordination among residents has always been the best response. For instance, when a fire occurs, the women take the basins and start getting the dirty water from the drainages around while men carry the water and use it to put out fires.
Some roads in Mukuru kwa Reuben that had been encroached earlier have been reclaimed and now with the upgraded infrastructure, the fire brigade can easily come and help during these disasters. While the remaining villages await their road upgrade, they will still be using their instinct driven methods to help in dealing with these fire disasters that occur at least once a week. Causes of these fires are negligence, domestic violence, poor electricity connections which are famously known as ‘’sambaza’’ and mishandling of gas cylinders which in turn explodes and this has been raised as a main concern in all the informal settlements. Domestic violence also stood out as a major cause of fire and amicable resolution of disputes was suggested as the best way of solving family issues. Most intoxicated people also are a main cause of fire, for instance lighting a candle and falling asleep then the mattress catches fire.
Another disaster that commonly occurred was the flooding of most areas in the settlement, this is due to the clogged drainage systems or lack thereof. This leads to most areas flooding during the rainy season. There is also the issue of river encroachment. Most residents, due to lack of space, are now building on riparian land thus leading to displacement of people in the rainy season, this needs the intervention of the relevant authorities to help in paving way for the water and thus avoiding flooding. This project is expected to run for 3 years and help the residents mitigate their issues and come up with long lasting solutions.