Immediate relief and long-term preparedness are the key to rebuilding after storms

Published: 6 November 2012 14:44 CET

By Katherine Mueller and Kefilwe Batsalelwang

It was the first time the rains had come so early, and they came hard in western Botswana, catching many people unaware. The damage caused in Inalegolo village in the Kgalagadi district was immediate.

Heavy downpours that started October 24 damaged or destroyed 72 homes, dozens of valuable animals were killed, and food stocks have been left soaked and inedible.

The Botswana Red Cross Society responded immediately, deploying volunteers to assist the village of 641 people, where almost half the population was left vulnerable.  “Most of the houses in this village are constructed of mud and could not withstand the force of these heavy rains,” said Mabel Rammekwa, Secretary General, of the organization. “We knew we had to get our volunteers in quickly to assess the situation and to determine just how many people needed assistance.”

Loaded down with prepositioned stock, volunteers began delivering shelter kits and tarpaulins to help people rebuild their shelter. They also distributed blankets and food kits containing milk, maize, sorghum and tea and other vital provisions to 282 people.

“This village houses some of Botswana’s most vulnerable people,” Rammekwa said. “The National Society is working closely with the public authorities to ensure help is provided to those who need it most. In our role as an auxiliary to the government, we have been receiving tremendous support from the public authorities in the district which has made our interventions possible.”

The number of people needing shelter assistance is expected to climb as some of the remaining houses are extremely fragile and could collapse. It will take up to three months to repair or rebuild. Until then, people have moved in with other family members, adding to already overcrowded living conditions.

Gaining access to Inalegolo is a challenge due to poor road conditions which are further worsened by the rain. This weather is forecast to continue in the weeks to come as the rainy season begins in earnest. Baboloki Moyangwa, Program Officer of Kgalagadi district said more bad weather could make a bad situation worse. “It is likely that people here will require additional assistance if that happens. We look forward to working with the Botswana Red Cross Society to ensure everyone is looked after.”

In addition to relief operations, the organization has embarked on a mission to educate villagers preparing for the rainy season, how to reduce their risks, and how to sound alerts about potential disasters.