– The long dry spell in the eastern Ugandan district of Bulambuli that left thousands needing food aid has been followed by torrential rains, raising fresh fears of flooding in the area, the Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness said.
“I flew over the districts around Mt Elgon three days ago,” Musa Ecweru told IRIN. “The rains are pounding the mountain and all the districts surrounding it are likely to face flooding. Already Butaleja is flooding. Bulambuli, Bududa, Tororo and others will also be affected.”
According to the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS), failure of the April-May rains left at least 13,500 people in Bulambuli needing aid. “The crops failed following a dry spell in April,” Richard Nataka, URCS Secretary-General, told IRIN. “Some aid has been provided by the government, but there is a need for further assistance.”
The affected communities are in Bunambutye (11,000 people) and Bwikhonge (2,500 people) sub-counties, where most farmers failed to harvest any food. While some rains have started, few have enough to eat, with many families living on one meal a day.
The Ugandan government, Ecweru told IRIN on 18 August, had dispatched emergency relief to the area. “We are mobilizing more relief from areas that have been favoured by the rains,” he added. “The main problem is that the people no longer store food. The food comes from the garden straight to the kitchen or to the market. In times of shortage, there is no fallback.”
At least 10,000 people are at risk of landslides in the area, according to Martin Owor, Commissioner for Disaster Preparedness and Management in the Prime Minister’s office.
Torrential rains triggered landslides in Bududa district in 2010, killing 300 people and forcing thousands to abandon their homes (file photo) Last year, torrential rains triggered landslides in Bududa district, killing 300 people and forcing thousands to abandon their homes in the mountainous villages of Nametsi, Kubehwo and Namangasa. The Uganda National Environment Management Authority has since warned of a deepening crack on Mt Elgon that runs 40km from River Lwakhakha on the Uganda-Kenya border through Manafwa, Bududa, Mbale, Sironko and Kapchorwa districts.
Torrential rains and flooding could ultimately affect food security by spoiling the current harvest, washing away the crop in the field and cutting off access to affected areas, said an aid worker in the capital, Kampala. In the past few days, floods have displaced at least 100 families and destroyed hectares of farmland in Butaleja’s Mazimasa and Himutu sub-counties.
Meanwhile, a dry spell in Namutumba District in nearby Busoga region has left hundreds needing aid. Susan Namuwaya, a local resident, told IRIN the crops that had been planted were hit by a dry spell, which started in April and lasted several months. “The people in Magada [sub-county] are finding it very hard to get anything to eat,” she said.
“Namutumba used to be a food basket but one sub-county lost the entire food crop due to erratic weather,” Ecweru said. Other areas of the district, however, have recorded a good harvest of maize, beans and cassava.
Media reports suggest two children died of severe malnutrition recently, but at least 1,400 were recovering at Magada health centre.