Cries of Marakwet Landslide victims amid COVID-19 pandemic

Cries of Marakwet Landslide victims amid COVID-19 pandemic

Tears roll down the cheeks of a mother of five, Hilda Cheptoo, as she recounts the misfortune that befell her and predicament she is going through in a makeshift camp at Kipchumwa in Marakwet East, Elgeyo Marakwet County.

“Nothing is going on at the moment I lost my husband and all the property we had. It is painful,” says Cheptoo.

“The landslide struck our house and swept away our property, we didn’t have time to pick our belongings we only saw them as they were being rolled down the river by the raging floods. Now, I am left with the sole responsibility of raising my children here at the makeshift camp.”

A few steps from where Hilda Cheptoo is seated at the makeshift camp is Willy Mutai who recalls the very day the landslide struck the village as they were getting set to retire into their houses after a long day.

“I count myself lucky, to have survived the tragedy that killed over 24 people, though lucky it is unfortunate now we are congested in a camp amid the coronavirus pandemic that continues to surge each day,” says Mutai.

“As we speak, I lost my two brothers, land under crops was swept away, my land was turned into a deep gully you can’t believe it was a tilled field with food crops. Our food security is at risk, we call upon the government to come to our aid.”

The residents are worried that if the coronavirus disease breaks out in the area it could be double tragedy for them as receiving medication remains a problem mainly due to poor roads.

“We had a dispensary at Kipchumwa but now we can’t reach there because the roads are impassable. We hear the government has started distribution of masks, but we have not seen them. They can’t reach to us because of poor roads, no vehicle can maneuver to this place,” added Mutai.

The fear of disease outbreak at the camp is equally shared by the landslide victims as Benedict Biwott puts it, the distance to the nearest Kamobo Health Centre from their new home is about 20 kilometers.

As the residents recount the loses they incurred in the tragedy, William Krop Aborleum says he lost his daughter who was in Class Five at Kipchumwa Primary School and life had been getting hard each passing day.

“It was better off when we were fending for ourselves. We have been lumped up with our families. In case of a coronavirus outbreak in this area, it will be devastating. They have abandoned us they haven’t come back to check on us,” says Krop.

“We have no food. They delivered relief food at Sambat area and we can’t go there because of poor communication and rough terrain. We were cut off now other undeserving people are benefiting from the donation.”

According to Abraham Kiptoo, a Kenya Red Cross in Elgeyo Marakwet County, over 139 housedholds comprising 229 people from Kipchumwa and 72 from Kaben need social and psychological support.

The officer disclosed that for the second time in a span of one month, they have distributed both food and non-food items to the affected households in conjunction with the local administration.

However, majority of the residents are wondering what the future holds for them, as they cannot continue relying on the support offered by the well-wishers. They hope to be resettled on safer grounds.

Joel Kiptoo Yano, a community-based organization officer who doubles up as the leader of the affected persons at Kipchumwa Camp, is calling on the government to construct a dispensary at Wewo area to allow expectant mothers access health care.

Margaret Jerob Kisang and Everline Rotich from Kaben said both West Pokot County and Elgeyo Markwet have been hardly hit this year unlike during the 2010 landslide and are calling on the County and National Government to come to their aid and relocate them to safer grounds to resolve the problem once and for all.