Victims of marine wildlife attacks in Lamu County have faulted the national government for alleged compensation neglect.
Speaking during a public participation forum on the proposed Wildlife Compensation and Management (Amendment) Bill of 2023, in Faza, Lamu East sub-county, the victims raised concerns over what they term as systemic marginalization and neglect in their pursuit of compensation from the government.
Aidar Omar Nassir who lost a limb after being attacked by a shark while fishing at Kizingiti Island said he has been waiting to be compensated for 10 years.
“Despite meeting all the requirements, I am kept in the waiting bay. My family is suffering, I am no longer the breadwinner, my children dropped out of school, and my wife wants to leave me. The government should compensate me to save my family,” said Omar.
The victims claim that the government only shows concern for those attacked by land wildlife like elephants, lions, hippos, crocodiles, etc.
The residents decried the long and tedious process of compensation tailored by KWS saying it should be simplified and that victims should be compensated commensurate with the magnitude of the attacks suffered.
Ali Salim, a resident of Kizingiti, revealed that despite his brother losing his life to a whale attack, the family has yet to receive any compensation or assistance, even after numerous and expensive trips to the Kenya Wildlife Services offices on Lamu Island.
“For the last five years, we have not received any payment since we lost our brother, as he went about fishing the deep seas,” lamented Salim.
Fatima Shebe, a resident of Faza Island, emphasized the impact of stingrays and stonefish attacks on marriages, as victims must endure a period of between three to six months before being intimate with their partners.
She also pointed out that women bear the brunt of the attacks as they have to shoulder additional responsibilities including providing food, clothing, and shelter and paying school fees during the recovery period.
They now want the government to procure boat ambulances to transport victims of marine wildlife attacks.
Speaking during the forum, the National Assembly departmental Committee on Tourism and Wildlife under the interim chairmanship of Voi Member of Parliament Khamis Chome Abdi, vowed to push for the enactment of the bill to provide relief to victims of marine attacks.
“We will push for the inclusion of four marine animals in the compensation schedule as it was before being repealed; because we have seen victims of shark attacks as well as sting rays, it is indeed true that the people are suffering and it is not fiction,” said Hon. Chome.
The Amendment Bill sponsored by Lamu East MP Captain Ruweida Obo seeks to include sharks, stonefish, whales, and stingrays among wildlife species for which compensation can be provided in cases of death and injury.
At least 1200 people, in the five years, have fallen victim to marine animal attacks, with the most common culprits being sharks, stonefish, stingrays, starfish, and whales.
Within the years 2020 and 2021 alone, around 200 individuals were attacked by Sharks, Stone Fish, Whales and Stingrays, according to Lamu East MP Captain Ruweida Obo.
Tragically, these attacks have had devastating consequences. Seven lives were lost due to shark attacks, while a staggering 158 individuals suffered injuries from stingray encounters.
In addition, 14 victims had to endure limb amputations following encounters with stonefish. Others experienced partial or complete loss of function in various body parts, with limbs and the spine being particularly affected, as a result of these ruthless marine wildlife attacks.