It’s a shame we do not learn from disasters


Published on 02/02/2009

It’s a shame we do not learn from disasters

By addressing serious issues without neglecting their sense of humour, editorial cartoonists like Kham are expected to maintain a delicate balance. That was the case in The Standard last Friday when he satirised the Government’s penchant for lip service after disasters. In each of the four frames, representing different tragedies, the grim-faced cartoon characterising the Government solemnly promises: “We’re in the process of setting up a disaster preparedness unit.”

But haven’t we heard it all before? Whether it is a collapsed building, floods, road accident or fire incident, the storyline is always the same. Politicians and top public servants will offer condolences or visit the scenes, then promise they were looking into better ways to prevent and respond to such incidents “next time”. But such commitments usually end when the media spotlight shifts to other issues and public anger subsides.

PointBlank hopes the promises this time will be fulfilled to keep wananchi safe. While tragedies occur everywhere, it is what we learn from them to prepare for a next time that matters..

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Make these death traps safer

Apart from the unfortunate deaths, the emotional and physical scars left by the recent fires in Nairobi and Molo will remain with hundreds of Kenyans for a long time. But as the country mourns, Mr Sande Olocho in Vihiga claims poor emergency response and sealed fire exits have turned many buildings into death traps.

This, he says, leaves a lot of unanswered questions: “Do the authorities regularly ensure such stores and other public places are designed and equipped for emergencies? Indeed, are there ever fire drills for staff and customers? Or are we not worthy of such safety standards?”

Olocho suggests firefighters be properly equipped with hosepipes, fireproof garments, boots and helmets (“instead of plastic ones”) as well as gas masks, oxygen cylinders and ladders.

train the public

This, he adds, will ensure our firefighters do not look like an improved version of village firefighters who usually use soil and buckets of water.

“The public should also be trained on how to respond. It is time the Government got out of its comfort zone and acted before more lives are lost,” he says.

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Orengo grabs chance to set record straight

Please refer to an article in PointBlank on January 20 (’We have acres of space for a response, Orengo), seeking an answer from Lands Minister James Orengo on an issue raised by Mr Andrew Moita Simiyu of Bungoma District.

In your article, Simiyu alleges he went to the district lands office for an official search and was shocked when an officer told him his two pieces of land had been used by individuals unknown to him to secure loans. According to your article, Simiyu further states that his attempts to seek an explanation have been unsuccessful.

When Mr Orengo read your first article on the same (‘Puzzle of Bungoma plots’, October 2, last year), he instructed immediate and thorough investigation. According to communication between the ministry’s headquarters at Ardhi House, Nairobi, and the District Lands office in Bungoma, the concerned parties were advised accordingly in writing (via letters BUNG/CIRCULARS dated October 2, and another of October 27) on the way forward.

If Simiyu is not satisfied with the answers provided by the Bungoma District Lands Officer, let him get in touch with the ministry headquarters on telephone number 0202718050, and ask for the Public Communication Office for more details.

—Richard Abura, Assistant Director of Information, Ministry of Lands.

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