Assessment of Kenya's preparedness to disasters caused by natural hazards: floods, drought and disease outbreak


In March 2016, the UK’s Department for International Development commissioned Development Initiatives to conduct a political economy study on Kenya’s preparedness to disasters caused by natural hazards, namely floods, droughts and disease outbreaks – human and animal.

With the effects of the 2015 El Niño phenomenon as a starting point the study aimed to understand the country’s level of preparedness for these natural hazards both at the national level and the subnational level – looking at Mandera and Migori counties as case studies. We applied a number of tools to gather evidence: key informant interviews, focus-group discussions, literature review and a financial analysis.

Our respondents ranged from Members of Parliament, Members of the County Assembly, national and subnational government employees, donors, United Nations agencies, international NGOs, academia, local organisations, research institutes, media, community leaders, women’s organisations and members of the community.

We assess preparedness under different frameworks – guided by UNISDR and UNOCHA definitions: governance and legal; capacity to prepare; linkages to international processes of disaster preparedness; and financial allocations to preparedness.

Main findings from the study

  1. There are no existing legal frameworks in place guiding the country’s disaster preparedness. There appears to be lack of political will to prioritise this. With the lack of guiding principles, coordination of preparedness across the different disasters is not strong.
  2. The country lacks a culture of preparedness: preparedness is much more reactive than proactive. There are multiple coordination platforms across the various actors that are perceived as useful but rely only on good relationships to work. Drought preparedness appears much better coordinated than flood and disease preparedness.
  3. Resource allocations for disaster preparedness appear to be increasing, particularly through aid. The allocations at the national and subnational budgets could be increased to meet demands. Kenya contributes the highest annual premium among African countries (US$9 million/KES 900 million) to the Africa Risk Capacity (ARC); an insurance cover against drought. Though it has not received any payout yet, this investment ought to be promoted as we found little understanding of ARC among our respondents.
  4. In the 23 counties where the National Drought Management Authority operates, disaster preparedness is much better coordinated compared to the other 24 counties.
  5. There is demonstration of gender inclusion and participation in preparedness at county level. In Mandera County, it is a requirement that Community Managed Disaster Risk Reduction has 30% women representation. In Migori County, women in flood-prone areas have formed self-help groups to build their resilience by de-silting the rivers and selling the sand to constructors.
  6. Access to data on disasters, risks and weather information does not seem to be a key challenge in Kenya. The existence of various systems helps to address the existing data gaps; the challenge, however, is on the use of this data to inform decision-making.

Key recommendations

  1. Adopt a multi-stakeholder approach to promote the current draft of the disaster risk management law and develop a strategy with suitable timelines to build the political will among decision-makers and policy implementers to prioritise disaster preparedness.
  2. The Government of Kenya together with implementing agencies should develop standard operating procedures for the different types of natural disasters. Besides this, sensitisation and awareness will contribute to promoting preparedness culture
  3. An assessment of how the different financial instruments funding preparedness interact. These instruments would need to be promoted under a ‘no-regrets’ approach. Government and development partners should increase awareness of the ARC.
  4. County government officials should benefit from knowledge strengthening on: disaster and resilience measurement; climate change dynamics; modelling; disaster-response triggers and thresholds. This would typically fall under capacity building provided by UN agencies.
  5. Joining-up timely data from the national surveys with what NGOs and other non-state actors collect will help to make data and accessibility to data more interoperable and more up to date for use.

View our presentation below for a summary of the key findings of the report

Download the full report here

Download the briefing here

Homepage image credit: Marisol Grandon/Department for International Development