From MMM Mukuru Health Program
It was the morning of 14th March 2023 at 10 am, at the time when the staff of Mukuru Health Program were engaged in the healing services, that a fire broke out in a place called Vietnam
in Mukuru slum. Vietnam is among the 8 villages that make Mukuru slums and it’s about 200m from our facility and adjacent to the nearby Parish church that is run by the Holy Ghost Fathers. It was the security man, of Mukuru Health Program, who alerted others that there was unusually thick smoke in the neighbourhood. A few staff ran to find out what was happening and then one of them came back with the news of fire that was gushing through the iron sheet houses. It was without a known cause and most of the residents had gone off for their usual casual labour.
It was a relief when the firefighter task force finally came in and managed to put the fire out after almost two hours. The task was made difficult due to the lack of a passable road to access the area of fire and the presence of gas cylinders that residents used in cooking, kept exploding, igniting more fire which was spreading very fast to other houses!
One of the women from the same place had come to the health centre that morning with severe abdominal pain. She was given some medication to relieve the pain as samples were taken to the laboratory. The triage nurse put her into the observation room to rest while waiting for results from the laboratory tests. She was later seen by the clinician with the laboratory results and put on medication to go home with. Upon getting the medication, she went home, to find her house with all her belongings already burnt! She came back to the facility confused, almost fainting and the words on her lips were “I have nothing left! “I have nothing left!” The staff rushed her to the emergency room to calm down. Thank God for the medical team that resuscitated her. Later the counsellor gave her psychological care. This was also extended to her husband and son, who came to the health facility. As if that was not enough, a group of youths came rushing with a fellow youth, holding his profusely bleeding hand. He had been trapped inside a room and he escaped by breaking the window, using his hand but it sliced his palm and fingers. He was attended to urgently, to arrest the bleeding, suturing and treatment were done for free! Fortunately, the Government ambulance was at the scene to take any other casualty to the nearby Government health facility.
It was sad to note that after the fire died down, people started looting and stealing the property that the affected people had rescued, while the police officers were looking on! This left us wondering, was it because they could not honestly identify the rightful owners! Nevertheless before we left duty, that evening, we visited the affected families and they were gathering all they could get from the rubble, children, women, youth and men alike. They were all in it together, it seemed nothing mattered whether religion, tribe or political affiliation, they were all united in what had come their way. There was a sense that they understood the value of being interconnected during this disaster.
Approximately, five hundred households were affected by the fire, leaving about 1100 people internally displaced (IDP) and hopeless. The majority of the IDPs were women and their children who lost everything including their important documents. These people need a place to stay, psychological support, provision of essential items like mattresses, blankets, dignity packs like sanitary towels, soap, tissue and toiletries in general. There is an urgent need for medical care to ensure that the clients that are on lifelong medication are offered a refill since their drugs were burnt down. We partnered with the Government facilities close by to ensure that the affected get the necessary care.
Currently in Kenya, the rains have started, thus the survivors are prone to infection like colds, therefore they need clothing support and warm sweaters to help protect them from more trouble.
In conclusion, disasters of fire and floods are very common in Mukuru slums, just like most informal settlements. Therefore the call to empower the already existing task force, that is, selected people in the community on immediate response to fire and flood, so that a quick intervention will be ensured to prevent more damage.