UGANDA: Schools stay closed as floods hit eastern districts

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Thousands of school children have been forced to stay at home as schools remain closed due to flooding in eastern Uganda. More than 150 educational institutions failed to open at the beginning of the new term on 17 September after the floods washed away roads, homes, buildings and crops in the region.

Education minister, Namirember Bitamazire, told reporters the Ugandan government was trying to find alternative strategies to allow the schools to reopen, especially in the districts of Amuria, Katakwi, Manafwa and Bukedea.

On 14 September, the Ugandan minister for disaster preparedness, Musa Ecweru, said up to 300,000 people in the eastern and northern regions were in dire need of relief aid after floods swept through villages killing at least nine people and washing away bridges.

"The situation borders on a crisis. Nine people have so far died and the floods that have affected up to 300,000 people," Ecweru said.

The authorities, he added, were particularly concerned because some areas on raised ground had also suffered flooding which has been spreading quickly from the eastern region of Teso to northern Uganda districts.

"We fear that unless the rains stop, it will continue to expand and it has put our people under a lot of pressure because this is a new phenomenon that we have not experienced for many years," the minister added.

The deputy resident representative of the UN World Food Programme, Alix Loriston, said the agency had secured some boats so that relief agencies could reach the community.

"Some people will have to be evacuated and relocated to other areas if the situation persists, but we shall also have to feed the affected communities for almost a year because their gardens have been completely destroyed," Loriston said.

Two helicopters, he added, would be made available to help airlift relief services to the affected area, and that a special appeal will be made to cater for the emergency.

The floods have affected tens of thousands of people according to Ugandan officials. Many of those affected were families that had just returned to their villages after years of displacement in camps due to a civil war between the government and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

"The communities that have been affected by the floods are very weak in the sense that they had just returned home from camp life," Ecweru said.

Ugandan meteorological experts said heavy rains were expected to continue in the coming weeks across the country. According to the seasonal rainfall forecast for September to December, there is an increased likelihood of above normal rainfall over most parts of Uganda due to a phenomenon referred to as La Nina.

Source: IRIN