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Health Workers Urge Kenyan Leader to Declare Floods 'National Disaster' - 2002-05-09


In Kenya, two weeks of heavy rains and flooding have resulted in the deaths of more than 40 people and left more than 100,000 people homeless. With further heavy rains expected, health workers are urging President Daniel arap Moi to declare the floods a national disaster.

President Daniel arap Moi on Thursday visited flood victims in Kenya's Eatern Province, where tens of thousands of people have been forced out of their homes by the flooding.

On Wednesday, police announced that a total of 46 people have died so far as a result of the flooding caused by two weeks of torrential rains. Police officials say 15 people have died in landslides, and another 31 have been swept away by floods.

The government is distributing emergency relief to destitute people across the country; many of them have been made homeless by the flood and are sheltering in schools and churches.

The leader of Kenya's National Nurses Association, Donald Epaalat, says he wants President Moi to declare the floods a national disaster. "So many people are suffering, and families have been displaced," he said. "And I think declaration of a national disaster would be the best way of dealing with the menace. We need an approach which will actually help these people in this time when we are expecting more rains in the next few weeks. We need organizations of goodwill to move in and ensure that the situation does not go out of control."

Mr. Epaalat says health centers in western Kenya have been inundated with people who have become sick as a result of the floods.

He warns that lack of clean water and sanitation could lead to an outbreak of cholera and other diseases. He says the danger is greater in urban areas, such as Kisumu, the third largest in city in Kenya.

"There is diarrhea, also diarrheal diseases coming up. Pneumonia because the children are exposed to cold," Mr. Epaalat said. "And there is the possibility of other outbreaks because the situation is very bad, including even Kisumu city itself, in which there is flood and the mixture of flood water and sewage. There is a very, very high risk to the public in that place."

The Kenya Red Cross says the low-lying western part of the country has been worst hit by the flooding. Rivers have burst their banks, submerging fields and washing away roads.

Kenya's National Meteorological Center says the rains are likely to continue in the west for at least the next few weeks.

President Moi is urging families living in flood-prone areas to move to higher ground.

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