Uganda: Floods Displace 100,000 People in Pakwach

21 September 2020

What used to be a road to a number of homesteads in Pujwang Central Village in Packwach Town Council four months earlier, is currently covered by floods following the rise in the Lake Albert water level.

This has forced several residents to use boats to access their homes and businesses. At least one person has died trying to cross the flooded water, according to local authorities.

Pujwang Village is not the only affected area, at least 100,000 people in nine sub-counties of Pakwach District have been affected by the floods.

Mr Robert Omito Steen, the Pakwach District chairperson, said a number of homesteads have been submerged by water which has forced the residents to look for other homes.

"The fact is, the livelihood of people is greatly affected. People have been displaced, and their houses have been broken down. In terms of households, I can strongly talk about more than 10,000 but if I talk about the element of people it goes close to 100,000 people affected," Mr Omito said at the weekend during an interview.

Mr Omito added: "Pakwach has a population of nearly 300,000 people, now when I look at the population projection, it is only Alwi Sub-county that has now been affected of 10 in Pakwach District, including two town councils."

A visit to the district by this newspaper revealed that a number of homesteads, especially those close to Lake Albert and Albert Nile, were abandoned and the ferry on the Albert Nile was not operating.

At Panymuir Fish Market, the water levels had risen beyond the barricades, some toilet facilities washed away and a number of homesteads evacuated.

"Crops have been destroyed. If you see people crossing using the boats, they are simply going to the water belt to get fish for business. There are very few homesteads where the water has not reached but they are equally in panic because the levels keep increasing each day," Mr Omito said.

Residents, however, say they do not have alternative land and resources to construct new homes.

The residents at the fish market in Panyimur also said transport charges have since increased from Shs5,000 to Shs20,000.

Mr Benson Okumu, the Pakwach Town Council chairperson, said the residents neither have a place to graze their animals nor carry out farming.

He said this could rise cases of hunger.

The floods have not only displaced residents in Pakwach, but have also increased diseases.

Some children have developed rashes, which parents attribute to flood water.

Ms Judith Fuathum, the district health inspector, said most sanitary facilities have been washed away.

Ms Fuathum said malaria cases are not the only ones that have risen but also scabies.

Currently, malaria is ranked high among pregnant women and outpatient departments due to the floods. However, the number of malaria cases was not readily available at the time of the interview.

Mr Omito said they are scared of outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and bilharzia.

Meanwhile, a number of businesses have been brought to a standstill such as markets. According to the district statistics at least 20 boreholes have been absorbed by floods.

Locals say despite these challenges government has paid a deaf ear to them.

"Government has not come out to help. What is government thinking? This is something that has gone on for more than four months," Mr Omito said.

He added: "We tried as much as possible as the district leadership to engage government. I have written to the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness and Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Water and Environment. There is no category of government dignitary stakeholders who are not aware of this."

Mr Omito said government has hardly distributed mosquito nets to district.

"The few we had were distributed to expectant mothers in health facilities. We are greatly disappointed in government," he said.

Govt response

Mr Julius Mucunguzi, the spokesperson of OPM, said government is aware of the situation and a meeting is to be held this week to agree on the actions that need to be taken. "The Prime Minister has directed that different agencies of government, health, works, education and all those that are responsible for the different situations get on ground to work in a coordinated manner and provide emergency response," he said yesterday.

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