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Another day another fire, can’t we remedy this situation?

Posted On Wednesday, 21 February 2018 14:50

By Kuchio Asonga,

On the evening of Sunday 28th January 2018 broadcasters and social media platforms were a buzz with news of a fire that was raging in the Langata area. As more information trickled in, it was revealed that the Kijiji Slum in Langata Constituency was ablaze.

In the hours that followed Twitter was awash with Kenyans venting their frustration and disappointment on how the situation was unfolding with many using the hashtag   #Langatafire for this.

One of the more popular tweets that drew numerous reactions on the platform was from Dr Mercy Korir, a medical doctor and health/media correspondent with the Standard Media Group. The tweet seemed to capture frustrations Kenyans’ have with how fire and rescue services are run in Nairobi County and Kenya in general.

 

Over the years’ numerous disasters such as the Nakumatt supermarket fire in 2009, Sinai (pipeline) slum fire in 2011 and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport fire in 2013 that razed the arrivals terminal have brought disaster management to the fore as a national issue.  At the county level a series of school fires following unrest among students in secondary schools across the country highlighted county governments inadequacy in providing Fire and Rescue services.

Kenyan citizens would be forgiven for giving in to hopelessness and despair. However, out of the public eye there have been efforts towards developing public policy that could eventually improve Kenya’s disaster preparedness and more specifically strengthen fire and rescue services.

In 2009, the Ministry of State for Special Programmes presented a National Policy for Disaster Management in Kenya. The document covers Kenya’s disaster profile that includes droughts, fires, floods, terrorism, technological accidents, diseases and epidemics. The policy provided an overarching framework for decision-making and coordination across disaster management sectors and actors that include government, ministries, civil society organisations, international organisations and the private sector.

The promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 highlighted the need to cascade the Policy to the county level. In 2013 the Kenya Law Reform Commission (KLRC) with input for various stakeholders in the sector developed two model laws for county governments to adapt in their county jurisdictions; the County Disaster Management Model Bill and the County Fire and Rescue Service Model Bill.

In addition, two senate Bills were drafted and published; these were the County Disaster Management (CDM) Bill 2013 and the County Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) Bill 2013.

These Bills were viewed as essential towards helping counties build capacity and implement the national policy on disaster management within a legal framework. However, in 2014, both Bills were merged into the County Disaster Management Bill 2014 with more focus on disaster management than on fire and rescue services. According to the Association of Fire Protection Industry Stakeholders (AFPIS) their members were not consulted on the merged Bill.

AFPIS has argued for separate Fire and Rescue legislation a part from disaster management legislation like in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Tanzania and South Africa which have specific Fire and Rescue Acts.

According to data from Kenya’s National Disaster Operations Centre, since 2008 more than eight million people have either died or been affected by fire related incidents across the country with the financial cost being losses of over KShs. 68 million. Without any real attempts to mitigate this situation the loss of life and property is bound to keep rising.

Kenya, a nation of estimated population of 49 million, has only 600 firefighters that are mainly based in the urban areas of Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa counties. Majority of the counties in Kenya have no Fire and Rescue service in place.

Kijiji Slum fire in Langata Constituency could be added to the litany of fire incidents that have occurred across the country or could be a catalyst to action through private-public dialogue on policy interventions that could mitigate death and losses through fire.