United Nations aid agencies are continuing emergency relief efforts for thousands of victims of last week’s devastating mudslides in eastern Uganda, which has left at least 83 dead and authorities still unable to account for more than 300 others.
One week after the disaster, attention is turning to the relocation of residents to safer areas amid continuing rains and a heightened fear of more landslides following days of rainfall unlatched a torrent of mud and debris to bury three whole villages close to Mount Elgon.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), along with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), have provided 1,000 pieces of plastic sheeting, 6,110 blankets and 10 hydraform machines to construct huts and other community structures.
While as many as 20,000 households may have been affected by the disaster and 5,000 people are expected to be relocated from the villages in Bududa district, flooding has submerged thousands of acres of crops, roads, schools and housing in Butaleja district at the foot of Mt. Elgon.
The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) is expected to supply 10 kilograms of seeds per household, targeting 1,000 households in Bududa, and another 10 kilograms of seeds per household targeting the 20,000 people whose crops were destroyed in Butaleja.
The likelihood of water-borne disease outbreaks remains high in Butaleja, where floods have either submerged or cut off health facilities and other critical infrastructure, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
OCHA reported that while the Government continues to lead the emergency relief response, as well as the search and rescue operation, the UN dispatched two teams last week – comprising representatives from FAO, the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF and others – to assess the situation in both districts.
In addition, the UN International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has dispatched 20 Thuraya satellite terminals, which will be vital for coordinating the logistics of relief work.
“I learnt with deep sorrow the loss of life resulting from a massive landslide that swept the slopes of Mt. Elgon in eastern Uganda,” said ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau Director Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid.
“This equipment has been dispatched with much urgency to assist in search and rescue operations and coordinating logistics on the ground,” added Mr. Al Morshid.
Since last October, the Great Lakes nation has been experiencing heavy rains – expected to last another month – that are believed to be tied to the El Niño weather phenomenon.