On the fateful day, December 03rd, 2019, Mzee Titus Muyonga, the Local Council chairperson of Hewasalsi village, Bududa District woke up with a peaceful grand sun rising, ready to carry on his duties, administering law and order to his residents.
Muyonga rose to a bigger crack within the hilly village. The dark clouds, raffle in ripples of a drum hamlet of the surroundings, as weather changed, to a heavy downpour.
Muyonga moved around the village to alert dwellers, on a possible evacuation, to ensure everyone is safe from a looming mudslide that would leave the village at a point of no return.
As he moved around with a loudspeaker, the mudslides ensured, killing more than 60 residents within the village, including the area chairperson, Muyonga, who was on a mobilization drive for evacuation from the same incident.
Muyonga’s body was seen 25 days later after a thorough search within the area.
Similar incidents happen in Kasese, a Western Uganda District where more than 100 people have died after the flooding of River Nyamwambwa. Such flooding has on several occasions left schools and hospitals nonfunctional as many of the displaced residents turn to hospitals, schools for shelter and refuge.
All social services remain in disarray while, the functionality of state agencies remains limited. Several Civil Society organizations fight hard to ensure that livelihoods regain a normal life while the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness fights to only support the people involved in such disasters.
Causes of such disasters
Severally, such disasters are caused by an increase in the flow of water through the rivers and outlets from the different mountains. Also, the increased rain fall is blamed for the breaking of the riverbanks into societies as it increases.
The increased water into the rivers and streams has always been caused by the melting of the glaciers at the mountain tops in the dry spell that coincide with a heavy rainy season that sees water flowing through the aquifers, not only blocking aeration of the soil, but also eroding soils and homesteads, later killing people.
“These, among the other factors are affecting including the strong rains leave the population struggling and without solution. These are all effects of climate change which are brought about by the intense destruction of the environment. The melting of the glaciers is usually caused by the increasing temperatures within the areas and thus flooding,” says David Kureeba, the program officer at the National Association of Professional Environmentalists.
According to Kureeba, many people die, due to the limited alerts offered by experts and thus do not have enough time to evacuate from the danger zones, which in many cases, leaves people dead and many others suffering from the dire effects of mudslides and the flooding.
On Wednesday this week, the State Minister for Environment Beatrice Anywar said, there is need to implement early warning systems in order to minimize the effects resulting from such natural disasters.
“Uganda is highly vulnerable to climatic shocks and is one of the most drought-prone countries in the world, despite having contributed least to the causes of climate change. Millions of Ugandans are being affected by drought and flooding every year and the climate predictions are showing that it only gets worst” she said.
Anywar made the remarks while launching the early warning for all initiative (EW4AII) and the inception workshop of the water at the heart of climate action project (W@HCA) at Imperial Botanical Beach Hotel in Entebbe.
She said; “There are already compelling evidences that shows a well-established early warning system not only reduces fatalities but also decrease disaster losses by up to 60 per cent, offering a remarkable tenfold return on investment.”
Anywar said while the logic and benefits of an early warning system are obvious, it’s implementation is still faced with challenges.
“There are limited financial resources, quality, accessibility, understandability and applicability of the early warning information. We still face challenges related to regulatory frameworks and enforcing mechanisms at the local level” she said.
The Uganda Red Cross Society Secretary General Mr. Robert Kwesiga said the focus of early warning is to use technology and the indigenous knowledge gathered in communities to mitigate disaster effects.
“Using that information helps us take decisions early enough, whether it’s at the highest level or also how you engage with the communities to be prepared, see what they can do to avoid the catastrophe but also be in a position to respond in case you can’t stop it, through that you will save lives and minimize damage” he said.
Kwesiga says, the initiative which is a regional program with support from the Netherlands government of up to € 55 million, will be implemented in four Nile Basin countries, including Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda as the pilot country.
“The Entry point at the grass root levels is to see how we are working with the communities to ensure they get information early enough, how it ties with their knowledge and how they turn it into an advantage for mitigation. At a national level we have to find out how this information is gathered globally to help in the decision making that is timely, progressive not reactive” he said.
The acting Commissioner in the Office of the Prime Minister Catherine Ahimbisibwe said government is coordinating the development and implementation of disaster mitigation and preparedness plans in all local governments as part of its early warning system among other initiatives.
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