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Death Toll in Kenya Landslides Rises to 58, Local Church Appeals for Help

Kenya's West Pokot county floods

With at least 58 people confirmed dead and property destroyed including homes following ongoing heavy rains in Kenya’s West Pokot region causing landslides, Catholic Church officials are calling for urgent assistance to save lives.

According to Caritas Kitale, this is "the worst natural disaster ever to have hit the county in the recent past."

“Families are in need of shelter, food, clothing, medicine, mosquito nets,” reads part of a report by Caritas Kitale to Caritas Kenya, referencing the effects of the heavy rains in the affected area of Kenya’s Kitale diocese.

"Caritas Kitale has asked the people in the neighborhood to support affected families with food, shelter and clothing through the affected parishes," Caritas Kenya, the Catholic Bishops’ development and humanitarian arm in the East African country has reported.

Speaking to ACI Africa about the situation on the ground, the director of Caritas Kitale, Alexander Barasa said Monday, November 25, "A father, mother with four children, you see that three children died, then the mother, father and one child survived. So, the families are traumatized." 

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He added, “We need people to offer psychosocial support because families have been traumatized.” 

The landslides occurred after over 12-hour continuous downpour Friday, November 22 night.

The banks of River Muruny, the only permanent river in the locality, burst damaging eight bridges making it hard to access villages by road.

"Most of the places are not accessible so we are waiting for the rains to reduce so we can get in through our roads," Mr. Baraza told ACI Africa, expressing the fear that the death toll may increase if no urgent interventions are made.

Mr. Baraza attributed the landslides to deforestation saying, "We are leaving our land bare and exposed. The population pressure had compelled people to go to places whereby in yesteryears it was bushes covered with trees but currently because we are doing farming the soil is loose and the land is susceptible to these disasters."

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In an interview with ACI Africa Monday, November 25, the Bishop of the diocese of Nyahururu blamed human activity on the landslides.  

People have cut trees and engaged in the burning of charcoal, Bishop Joseph Mbatia decried and explained, “when you burn charcoal, the area is devastated, it is left bare without anything."

He added, "The trees preserve water and they prevent the erosion. Erosion is happening carrying all the soil and taking it to the lower places where people reside.”