UGANDA: Floods displace 15,000 in north
The deluge has destroyed houses, crops, roads and bridges
KAMPALA, 7 September 2012 (IRIN) - Floods have forced at least 15,000 people to leave their homes in northern Uganda, where the deluge has destroyed houses, crops, roads and bridges.
The Acholi districts of Agago, Kitgum, Lamwo and Pader are the most affected, with Agago alone having a total of 3,492 households affected, almost 13,000 hectares of crops inundated and some 2,000 latrines destroyed, according to a report by its district disaster management office.
“The situation is certainly bad. It’s worrying. There is fear of an outbreak of certain diseases and food insecurity as a result of the heightened rains and flooding,” Ugandan State Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Musa Ecweru told IRIN.
“Several areas have been cut off. People are uprooting their food crops from the gardens due to fear of them getting rotten. This is going to cause food insecurity and starvation in a few months.”
Ecweru said that the impassable roads have hindered access to some of the treatment centres for patients suffering from nodding disease
in the region.
In 1996, as the Ugandan government fought the Lord’s Resistance Army rebellion, almost the entire population of the Acholi region was compelled to move into overcrowded and poorly serviced “protected villages”.
They only began to return to their homes in significant numbers 6 years ago. Since then, many international aid agencies have left or scaled down their presence in the region as the level of emergency humanitarian need declined.
“We are working with the ministries of health, works, education, agriculture, water and environment to respond to the situation,” said Ecweru, adding that the government was going to dispatch immediate relief items such as medicines and disinfectant to prevent disease outbreaks.
Neighbouring regions such as Karamoja, Lango and Teso have similarly been affected by the rains, which started in early July and increased in intensity in late August.
“The situation [in Acholi region] is marked by increasing desperation while more suffering is anticipated,” said Jackson Odong, a research and advocacy officer at the Makerere University, who is based in Acholi.
“The families whose shelters were destroyed currently live in debilitating conditions. Shelter kits containing tarpaulins, buckets, mosquito nets, blankets and tents are a necessity,” he told IRIN.
The floods have also affected the reopening of several schools.
Augustine Asiire, the Agago resident district commissioner, said other urgent needs included food, utensils, safe water and portable latrines. She named the worst affected areas in her district as Adilang, Kalongo, Lamio, Omot, Paimol, Parabongo and Wol.
The floods are likely to negatively affect several reconstruction programmes in the region such as the National Agricultural Advisory Services, the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund and other projects under northern Uganda's Peace, Recovery and Development Plan, according to a late August rapid assessment by Makerere University's Refugee Law Project.
This assessment warned that perennial flooding in the region could precipitate further conflict.
“Affected communities have to cope with neighbouring households displaced and searching for shelter, grazing land, food items, land for cultivation and source [s] of livelihood generally,” it said.
“Returning to camps could instigate an increase in land disputes, as vacant land invites encroachment and illegal land grabbing,” the assessment added.
An estimated 50,000 households, comprising about 300,000 people, were affected by flooding in 2007 in northern Uganda.