Anthony Mwangi in Soroti, Uganda
“Torrential rains in Uganda have cut off our villages and made it difficult for us to get food from the market,” explains Adopa James, a resident of Koboi in Uganda. “People were washed away as they tried to cross the high waters and our houses have collapsed.”
According to an inter-agency assessment, the floods have affected up to 300,000 people in Uganda. The worst affected areas are in the north-eastern districts of Soroti, Amuria, Kumi, Katakwi and Bukedea. Bridges and roads have been cut off and access for humanitarian workers is very difficult. The alternative routes means many lost hours on the road. The road network is generally in a poor state and this has caused transportation costs to spiral.
Latrines have collapsed, houses damaged and crops destroyed, leading to food insecurity. Waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea, upper respiratory diseases, gastroenteritis and malaria have become rife. The health centres lack adequate drugs. Medical personnel are unable to cope with the large number of people affected. Humanitarian organizations have been distributing relief, but this has not been sufficient for the flood-affected communities.
“We have begun receiving resources from the local corporate sector and other organizations following the launch of our international appeal, the amount of which will help us in upscaling our floods intervention,” said Mr Michael Nataka, the Deputy Secretary General of Uganda Red Cross. Mr Nataka noted that “with the donation from Kenya Red Cross, ICRC and UNICEF, the provision of assistance to the affected families has resumed.”
“Kenya Red Cross continues to provide Uganda Red Cross with technical support in form of transportation, relief distribution, water purification, mobile health clinics and health training to Uganda Red Cross volunteers and the general community,” said Abdinoor Mohamed, the Kenya Red Cross relief team coordinator in Uganda. He said this cross-border support was in the spirit of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and East African neighbourly cooperation.
With a fleet of trucks and land cruisers from the Kenya Red Cross, distribution of relief reached 27,175 people in Atiira, Kamuda, Aeket, Angedakiteng and Osukuunya, within a five-day period.
The risk of waterborne diseases increases with floodwater and clean water becomes essential. One such community requiring clean water is Amasineko camp in Amuria District. The camp comprises people returning who were internally displaced. “As a result of the floods, hand pumps and wells have been contaminated by collapsed latrines and sewers. We have not had access to safe drinking water,” says Abuti Anjela, a resident at the camp.
Kenya Red Cross has set up a water purification plant in Amasineko to support the Uganda Red Cross effort in ensuring access to clean water. Following an assessment, Amasineko was found to be the most vulnerable camp that required immediate support. So far, over 10,000 people have been able to access clean drinking water.
“The water purification plant takes the water through filtration, purification and then chlorination. The end product is water that people can drink directly from the taps,” says Michael Murithi, Kenya Red Cross water and sanitation field officer. Uganda Red Cross volunteers have now been trained on how to operate the treatment plant.
A second water purification plant will be set up in Adacar in Katakwi District, an area that has been cut off for weeks. A hygiene and sanitation integrated training was conducted in Amuria for 25 Uganda Red Cross volunteers.
The basic health unit rolled out mobile medical posts in Amasineko and Angelepo camps. This will improve the access to health care for communities who have to travel long distances.
As heavy rain persists in Uganda, more land and aerial assessments continue to be conducted by the International Federation’s Field Assessment and Coordination Team (FACT), Uganda Red Cross and Kenya Red Cross.