5 June 2012

Uganda: Sironko Mudslide Victims Seek Help

For fear of losing more lives, residents of Bujimwera village in Bumasifa sub-county, Sironko district, have asked the government to quickly relocate them to safer areas after heavy rains on Sunday killed two people and swept away 35 homesteads.

Two other residents, who have been missing since the catastrophe, are feared dead. Hussein Kato Matanda, the Sironko resident district commissioner (RDC), says more than 95 homesteads are at risk because more mudslide are expected as rains in the region intensify.

The dead are 70-year-old Zita Nafuna Mukoosi and Francis Wamboka, 30. Matanda says the rain, which began at noon, poured throughout the day and night, destroying more than 70 acres of cultivated land -- fields of coffee, cabbage, maize, beans and matooke.

"Over 200 people in the 35 homesteads that were swept away have nowhere to sleep. If people have asked government to resettle them to safer areas, it should be done fast," the RDC said, adding that 1,000 residents would be resettled in areas deemed safe, after consultations with relevant authorities. The residents are desperate to move.

"I nearly died in the mudslide. The incident occurred shortly after I had left my home to visit my brother. I would rather die from elsewhere than here where I narrowly survived," said 66-year-old Muwoma Kanzimini.

She was supported by Nabende Wamoto, the Bulambuli RDC.

"It is time people in Bugisu sub-region stopped defending ancestral graves and valued their lives. We are not after killing our culture but rather protect and defend it while in a safer area. I urge those affected in Sironko to take any chances of relocation as a positive endeavour from the government," Wamoto said.

District chairman James Nabende says the administration does not have enough resources to resettle the affected families.

"Our budget is very small. We are calling on sympathizers to support the affected families with basic necessities like food and shelter," Nabende said.

"We are tasking the district's disaster committee to prepare a report that will be submitted to relevant authorities in search of support for our people. Some more two homesteads were washed away in Buchabo village."

Robert Wanzagiro, the area council chairman, echoes the plea for help: "I'm housing more than 20 people. Others have been taken on by their relatives and friends in the neighboring villages. Our lives are not safe; we need to be relocated."

Wanzagiro told The Observer on Monday that the community was still searching for the bodies of the two residents who had not been accounted for since Sunday. The search was made difficult, even dangerous, because of the hilly terrain and crude equipment - mostly sticks.

Sironko is the third Bugisu district to be affected by mudslides since the 2010 devastating Bududa mudslide. In 2011 Bulambuli mudslides killed over 28 people. Following the mudslide, residents of Bujimwera village, Bumasifa sub-county will hardly access Bunagami Health Centre III; the road there was submerged.

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