Kampala — ONE of the most enduring and costliest effects of the extreme rains currently slamming the nation and displacing populations in the Northeast region is the destruction on the transport infrastructure.
According to a government statement on the disaster delivered to parliament by Mr Musa Ecweru, the state minister for Disaster Preparedness on September 18, hundreds of kilometres of trunk and feeder roads have been washed away by the raging floods (picture below), cutting off districts from each other and the region from the whole nation.
"The breakdown of road network has affected accessibility to communities. Some of the villages and sub counties making it difficult to reach out to vulnerable people," Mr Ecweru reported to parliament.
Although the statement detailed the extent of the infrastructural damage, road-by-road and bridge-by-bride, it didn't assign a bill to the massive recovery efforts that will have to be undertaken.
The overwhelming scale of the unfolding damage echoes a similar infrastructural mess left by the El Nino weather disaster that struck the nation in 1997 and left the economy reeling. Uganda took nearly half a decade to recover from that mess and recovery cost run into billion.
Although Mr Ecweru's statement recommended immediate steps to repair the damage on roads and bridges, doing so could in fact take much longer than many might think. In the 2007/08 budget, the Finance Minister, Dr Ezra Suruma allocated a meagre Shs50 billion to the nation's entire road network, mainly to cover ongoing construction and maintenance projects.
And although budgeting often involves contingency funds, the scale of the damage being wreaked on the Northeast region was certainly not envisaged.
That implies that money to pay for major repair works might have to be sourced from the next budget, a scenario that would extend the current transport and communications nightmare for the whole year.
"90 per cent of the road network has been damaged in the affected sub regions," Ecweru declared. With almost the entire transport network wiped out by floods, the regional economy will most certainly get paralysed.
Since the catastrophe in the region became apparent, government efforts so far have bent heavily on the humanitarian needs of the displaced people.
WFP, Red Cross, UNICEF and other relief organisations have swiftly responded to the aid appeals and are now pouring billions into the region. Amidst the rush, infrastructure seems to be slipping under the radar.